Why Southern Charm's Kathryn Dennis' Famous Ancestor Is Causing A Stir

Southern Charm has been, um, charming audiences for eight seasons. The Bravo hit follows the lives and loves of some of Charleston, S.C.'s most famous (read: wealthy and privileged) families. Naturally, the reality TV show's cast includes members whose antics would give even Scarlett O'Hara the vapors. Among them is Kathryn Dennis, whose rocky history with boyfriend Thomas Ravenel could fill a book: featuring custody battles, substance abuse, and assault charges. Still, the series' latest season began with the revelation that the couple were still living together in Thomas' house while Kathryn's own home was being built. 

However, the latest controversy swirling around Kathryn isn't about her relationship, her parenting, or her sobriety. No, she's actually been getting flak for having a famous ancestor — or rather, for not doing more to separate herself from his legacy. As The Daily Dish confirms, Kathryn is a direct descendant of John C. Calhoun, who was vice president under Presidents John Quincy Adams and later Andrew Jackson, before going on to become secretary of state and finally a South Carolina senator. Ordinarily, that would be a legacy to be proud of, but in this case, the honor comes with an uncomfortable stain. 

This is why Southern Charm's Kathryn Dennis' famous ancestor is causing a stir.

A new Southern Charm castmate wants Kathryn Dennis to apologize for her ancestor

Like many Southern leaders of his time, John C. Calhoun was firmly opposed to ending slavery. In an 1837 speech to Congress, he declared slavery to be "a positive good," and supported the secession of the Southern states, per Teaching American History. "Abolition and the Union cannot coexist," Calhoun continued. "... We of the South will not, cannot, surrender our institutions."

In June 2020, a statue of Calhoun was removed from Charleston's Marion Square Park as part of the protests over systemic racism. As People reported, new Southern Charm cast member Leva Bonaparte — the show's first person of color — attended a community meeting that discussed its removal. Kathryn Dennis was not at the meeting, which left Leva feeling let down. "When it comes to Kathryn, I've always struggled because I'm like, 'You have this name, you have got to know what a trigger it is,'" she said. "How could you not?" Leva added that if Dennis had spoken out publicly against her ancestor's actions, "That would have been such a testament to moving forward." 

Already taking heat for using a monkey emoji in a Twitter exchange with a Black radio host, Kathryn explained her absence to The Daily Dish. "I wanted to be there [at the statue removal], but I didn't go obviously because the death threats are pretty intense," she said. "I don't think I would have been well received. I do want to say I support that [removal]."