Skip to comments.Thurmond's Biracial Daughter Seeks to Join Confederacy Group
Posted on 07/02/2004 6:08:28 AM PDT by OESY
Essie Mae Washington-Williams, a biracial woman who stepped forward last year to acknowledge that she was the daughter of the late Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, now wants to join the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization of descendants of soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War.
Evidently she is eligible: Senator Thurmond, once a fierce segregationist, was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a similar group for men. Ms. Washington-Williams, a 78-year-old retired teacher who lives in Los Angeles, also plans to apply for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Black Patriots Foundation, which honors black Revolutionary War fighters. One of her two sons will apply to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, her lawyer said.
The announcement, which was made this week, was in keeping with the confounding nature of a story that some said was emblematic of racist hypocrisy in the South, but which produced no apparent bitterness on the part of Ms. Washington-Williams. Her mother, Carrie Butler, was a maid in the Thurmond family home in South Carolina and was 16 when she gave birth to Ms. Washington-Williams. Mr. Thurmond saw her about once a year and gave her financial support, she has said.
Out of a desire to protect her father, Ms. Washington-Williams waited until after his death a year ago to come forward about her parentage, and put an end to decades of silence with a simple dignity, saying, "At last, I feel completely free."
On Thursday, her name was added to a monument to Senator Thurmond on the statehouse grounds in Columbia, S.C., joining the names of the senator's other children.
Ms. Washington-Williams is joining the Confederate organization not to honor the soldiers that fought for a Southern way of life dependent on slavery, but to explore her genealogy and heritage, her lawyer, Frank K. Wheaton, said yesterday. In applying, she claims an honor that can be bestowed only on someone of her lineage, he said, and she hopes to encourage other blacks in a similar position to do the same.
In a statement, Ms. Washington-Williams said: "It is important for all Americans to have the opportunity to know and understand their bloodline. Through my father's line, I am fortunate to trace my heritage back to the birth of our nation and beyond. On my mother's side, like most African-Americans, my history is broken by the course of human events."
The patriot organizations said they do not keep track of the racial makeup of their membership, but Patsy Limpus, president general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said she knew of "several" blacks in her organization, which claims 170,000 members.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil liberties group in Montgomery, Ala., said there was no way to say how many Sons of Confederate Veterans or United Daughters of the Confederacy are black, but, he said, "I think there are precious few."
"This is the kind of thing that's going to come as a rude shock to the present leadership of the S.C.V., to put it mildly," he said.
But the leaders of that group and others said they were indifferent to the race of applicants. "That is not the issue here with us," Ms. Limpus said. "The issue is whether she has a Confederate ancestor."
Rhobie Reed-Curtis, the organization's California director, who has been dealing with Ms. Washington-Williams, said: "She has an ancestor, and just like anybody else, if they can document it with the proper paperwork, that's all there is. If people want to put more to that, I can't."
Ms. Washington-Williams's interest in the groups was inspired by the story of Lena Santos Ferguson, a black woman who was rejected for full membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1980, Mr. Wheaton said. With the help of a law firm, she proved her lineage and gained admittance in 1984. Her nephew, Maurice Barboza, helped her found the Black Patriots Foundation. Mr. Barboza approached Mr. Wheaton soon after Ms. Washington-Williams came forward with her story.
Mrs. Ferguson died this year, further prompting Ms. Washington-Williams, Mr. Wheaton said. Some of her Thurmond ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War.
Mr. Wheaton said it would be "shortsighted" for anyone to regard Ms. Washington-Williams's application as supportive of racism or slavery. "What her presence in these organizations does is continue to encourage the dialogue between black and white that would never otherwise take place, because they are exclusive," he said.
Dr. Cleveland Sellers, director of the African-American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, said that interest in genealogy had burgeoned among blacks in recent years, despite gaps in official records.
"There was a time when it was argued that there was little or no culture that was able to transcend the middle passage, and that African-Americans actually brought nothing but their bodies to the new world," Dr. Sellers said. "That myth has been exploded."
But he called Ms. Washington-Williams' quest to lay claim to her white roots "novel." "Most would be interested in following the roots that take them back to Africa," he said.
Thank you for posting this story.
Genealogy is fascinating. I found all sorts of relatives with whom I have no issues. Of course, they're all dead and have been for a few generations but hey, they're family.
The bottom line is whether her birth certificate lists Strom as her father. It all hinges on that. If so, she's in. Race is irrevelant. However, if she is denied access because she can't produce the paperwork like everyone else, the liberals will scream racism. same ol', same ol'.
Essie Mae Williams has been the pinnacle of class throughout all of this. She has ignored the race hustlers who would have her denounce the Thurmonds as racists, she's been welcomed into the Thurmond family and included as a child of Ol' Strom on the Thurmond monument, she's handled everything with complete class and dignity.
She's entitled to join the UDC by her lineage, and by God, she should do it. It'll leave the local NAACP scratching their heads in disbelief...which they've already done a lot with her.
I think the SCV would more than welcome her. It seems as if there are still too many that think that anything Southern or Confederate is automatically racist and exclusive to the South.
I, as a citizen of South Carolina, would gladly welcome her to any organization that celebrates her heritage......African American, American, Daughters of the Confederacy.
Well another slimes non story. This is been trumpted up just gain notoriety. If the lady can prove her lineage to a confederate veteran, then she is eligible to apply. Actually, she can save herself some money, do the research on line and then apply just like every other member. The slimes must believe the Daughters of the Confederacy an all white group. Oops another slimes reporter that has not done their homework before printing junk.
"Essie Mae Williams has been the pinnacle of class throughout all of this."
She really has been. She's a breath of fresh air in this age of vulgarity in which we live today. I was thinking about her just the other day, for no apparant reason, and how much dignity she'd shown about this whole situation. So, very interesting to me to see this post here today.
This lady definately has class.
Really, it's pretty clear who the real bigot is in this piece.
A chip off the ol' block.
I wonder if one part of her hates the other, or both parts hate each other equally.
Alex Haley researched his white ancestry as well as his African ancestry. Some of Sally Hemings' descendants have been eager to claim they are descended from Thomas Jefferson. So this isn't exactly the first case. Some of the black members of the DAR probably got in on the basis of a white ancestor, simply because there are fuller records for white Revolutionary soldiers and it's easier to document the generations between 1783 and 1865 in the case of whites.
Democrats are unable to think of people in other than racial stereotypes. < /irony >
Clear to me as well...
And obviously operating from stereotypoes based upon keeping himself employed!
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