RE: Strom Thurmond's Daughter : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

The late Senator Strom Thurmond's family has acknowledged that he is the father of a retired schoolteacher from Los Angeles, Mrs. Essie Mae Washington-Williams. During an interview, the interviewer suggested that had Mrs. Williams revealed this during the civil rights movement, it would have helped the cause. Mrs. Williams disagreed of course. Do you think she should have revealed Senator Thurmond's secret earlier? Would the Civil Rights movement have been helped or hurt if she had revealed it?

Be Blessed

-- Anonymous, December 19, 2003


Strom Thurmond would have been disgraced in front of his peers, and would have "disappeared" in short order. I doubt it would have affected events though.

-- Anonymous, December 19, 2003

How did a story of this magnitude stay hidden from the American media for so long?


-- Anonymous, December 20, 2003

I agree that Strom would have disappeared from the political scene.

I don't know how it would have affected the Civil Rights movement.

As to how this type of information could be withheld:

This country has withheld information about Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, and only God knows what else.

It seems, though, that it's the Democrats that get caught with their pants down (Gary Hart, JFK, Bill) before or during their term in office, while the Republicans (except for Nixon) get caught once they've left.

-- Anonymous, December 20, 2003

I saw Paula Zahn interview Ms. Washington-Williams last evening, and she stated that there were a number of reasons why she did not reveal her paternity, mainly that she felt revealing her "identity" would have hurt Thurmond's political career. She also said that she was not proud of the fact that she was the product of an "affair" between her mother and Thurmond. I do not believe that the Civil Rights movement would have been helped if this revelation had been revealed during that time. I believe that Thurmond would have just denied the paternity suit. Peace.

-- Anonymous, December 20, 2003

This was common knowledge in his home state. He paid her way through college. Her mother introduced her to him when she was 16. He visited her at school and in Los Angeles. She visited him in Washington where he took her into the Senate chambers. He just never said who she was, however if you look at her it is apparent that she is his daughter, Now the Thurmand family admits that it is true. A year ago, if you searched the internet for her name, it was linked to his at that time.

-- Anonymous, December 20, 2003

What I find very interesting is the age of Strom Thurmond and the age of the mother of Mrs. Essie Mae Washington-Williams. Not only was he sordid in his hypocrisy, he was with a teenager as an adult!

-- Anonymous, December 20, 2003

I forgot to add, "when she, Mrs. Washington-Williams was born."

-- Anonymous, December 20, 2003

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- In the days after Strom Thurmond's firstborn publicized the open secret of her biracial lineage, what followed was a litany of sound bites rife with shock and awe.

Slack-jawed onlookers wondered how the late South Carolina senator could have fought to keep the privileges of citizenry from his own offspring. Wide-eyed readers realized the man who vowed to keep black people out of white theaters and restaurants didn't mind being close to them.

But the disclosure shouldn't have been that surprising or amazing, said scholars, politicians and experts on race, history and Southern culture.

Thurmond didn't break from his segregationist views to afford Essie Mae Washington-Williams the same treatment or inheritance afforded his three white children, they note. And the hues of African- Americans, whose ancestors arrived in this country with skin tones true to their African origins, reveal that plenty of soapbox segregationists were bedroom integrationists.

"Black people are brown, light yellow and all different colors in the United States," said Dr. Alvin Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "White men created all the vast array of complexions and skin tones in black Americans by copulating with black women."

And Thurmond -- a male with money and might -- had the trappings that allowed Southern white men to live outside the constraints of society, said former professor Joel Williamson, author of "New People: Miscegenation and Mulattoes in the United States."

"It's a thing about power and class in the South and gender and sex. Men of the upper class behaved like they wanted to behave," said Williamson, a South Carolina native who grew up watching then-judge Thurmond on the bench.

Slavery similarities Thurmond was 22, and Washington-Williams' mother, Carrie Butler, was a 16-year-old maid for Thurmond's family when she was born. Those circumstances are reminiscent of slave owners exploiting the African- American women in bondage, Williamson and Poussaint said.

Emancipation didn't end the practice.

"Often for young men of Strom Thurmond's class, their first sexual encounter was with a black domestic," said Larry Powell, a history professor at Tulane University. "This is not very uncommon at all. .... They abused that power. It might not be rape in the physical sense, but there had to have been some element of compulsion. This woman's livelihood depended on this family."

Attorney Frank K. Wheaton, Washington-Williams' spokesman, said his client has tried to be modest and gracious in characterizing her conception.

"She is aware like most that it could have been a one-time affair, but given that her mother worked there, that is highly unlikely," Wheaton said. "It was probably an ongoing affair. She is far too modest, as most children would be about their mother. No child wants to delve into the existence of their parents' relationship."

Thurmond's later financial assistance to his daughter didn't mean he was straying from his segregationist views, scholars said.

"She was still a second-class daughter," Powell said. "She did not inherit any of his estate."

The New York Times reported when Washington-Williams visited Thurmond during his stint as governor, she was required to enter the mansion through the back door.

And the Washington Post reported that Washington-Williams received no assistance from her father before age 16. As an infant, the neighbors of her teen mother helped feed and clothe the offspring of a wealthy man, the newspaper reported.

Washington-Williams and did not lack for paternal nurture, Wheaton said

"She knew the circumstances of her presence," he said, "and with race relations what they were and ... with a loving aunt and uncle who were like her parents, she did not miss the water in her well until she came to know it."

"She grew to love her (natural) father tremendously," Wheaton said. "When he distributed his wealth (before his death), he thought of her."

Wheaton said he and his client will not disclose the amount of money Thurmond gave her.

Minding manners Dick Harpootlian, a former Democratic chairman for South Carolina, said he loathed Thurmond's politics as did many others, but natives of the state would never publicly discuss the rumors and open secret surrounding Thurmond's eldest child.

"You know what we call it down here? We call it ugly," said Harpootlian, a Columbia, South Carolina, attorney. "We call it being ugly -- talking about it. It's manners. You don't publicize the personal weaknesses, or peccadilloes of your neighbors."

In South Carolina culture you can take into consideration being human, Harpootlian said, "and I think the rest of the country ought to also."

The support that Thurmond gave Washington-Williams after her mother introduced them in 1941 was an example of Thurmond's "doing the right thing," Harpootlian said. "He paid for her way through college and maintained a relationship with her."

As for the questions regarding whether it was a consensual conception given the teen's position and Thurmond's power, Harpootlian said that question no longer matters.

"That's something that's three-quarters of a century old, " he said. "What's the relevance of invading something that happened in the 1920s?"

Williamson, a South Carolina native, said there is a limit to following the mores of Southern manners. Being ugly "is bad manners, " he said, "but some men have no manners anyway. And they are the men at the top who have the power to exercise their bad manners."

-- Anonymous, December 24, 2003

Mrs. Washington-Williams did the right thing by keeping her secret, though the burden was great. Being a white man he was going to deny it. There was no DNA test at this time. I would have drained his bank account and kept my mouth closed. During this time the family may have been lynched or something awful probably would have happened to them. I am a few years younger than Mrs. Williams, had a "no count' 'no good' broke poor father, if you wan to call him that. If he had had a dime I would have gone after it.

-- Anonymous, December 28, 2003

Political Activist and Comedian Dick Gregory, guest on a Dallas radio station Sunday suggested that Mrs. Washington-Williams may be the Senator's sister rather than his daughter. He also asserted that he was the Commencement Speaker at an all-black college for the graduating class where Strom Thurmond was in attendance to see his bi- racial daughter graduate. What do you think?

-- Anonymous, December 29, 2003

I once read a book on Klan activity against the Jews of Mississippi, and how the FBI broke it up. They found blackmail was an excellent tool to use in gaining informers within the Klan.

They knew Klan involvement was only one area in which these guys were rotten, and if they were followed the FBI would soon have a weapon. They found illegal financial dealings, wife beating, and all other manner of good dirt.

One thing they found more than once in their surveilance: Black mistresses. Once they had that kind of information the Klansman would do whatever they wanted. Old Strom must've felt the same heat.

-- Anonymous, January 01, 2004

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