Breaking nearly eight decades of silence, Essie Mae Washington–Williams comes forward with a story of unique historical magnitude and incredible human drama. Her father, the late Strom Thurmond, was once the nation's leading voice for racial segregation (one of his signature political achievements was his 24–hour filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1957, done in the name of saving the South from "mongrelization"). Her mother, however, was a black teenager named Carrie Butler who worked as a maid on the Thurmond family's South Carolina plantation.
Set against the explosively changing times of the civil rights movement, this poignant memoir recalls how she struggled with the discrepancy between the father she knew–one who was financially generous, supportive of her education, even affectionate–and the Old Southern politician, railing against greater racial equality, who refused to acknowledge her publicly. From her richly told narrative, as well as the letters she and Thurmond wrote to each other over the years, emerges a nuanced, fascinating portrait of a father who counseled his daughter about her dreams and goals, and supported her in reaching them–but who was unwilling to break with the values of his Dixiecrat constituents.
With elegance, dignity, and candor, Washington–Williams gives us a chapter of American history as it has never been written before–told in a voice that will be heard and cherished by future generations.
Washington-Williams, Essie Mae/ Stadiem, William
black & white illustrations
black & white illustrations
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a Black South Carolinian myself, I would certainly love to sit down and chat with Mrs. Washington-Williams after reading this.
Anyone who was born out of wedlock, adopted, and had an ambiguous or contentious relationship with their biological father, as was the case with myself, can truly say A-MEN and indentify with the pain she describes of not being openly acknowledged by one's biological father. She does an excellent job of articulating what it's like to be in that situation and people who could identify with this will find this aspect of the book almost theraputic.
The book is great with South Carolina history. She does a good job of detailing South Carolina's dark and racist past, and it's amazing to know that her bloodline contains some of the most infamous enemies to Black people that SC has ever known (Matthew C. Butler who led a masacre of 40 Blacks in Hamburg SC in 1876, William Thurmond, Strom's dad, who masterminded the career of the pro-lynching...
Dear Senator is an amazing book written with candour, honesty, humour and sadness by the biracial daughter of the racist Senator Strom Thurmond who died in 2003.
I read the book from cover to cover on the day that it arrived through the post; sadly it is not a book you can get easily here in the UK.
Essie Mae Washington-Williams grew up in a segregated world that was the USA in the 1920s, until one day she found out that her Mother was actually her Aunt and her mother's sister Carrie Butler her real mother!
Another shock followed this revelation in 1938, Essie Mae had taken it for granted she had a Black father but it turned out that her father was actually a white man, not only was he white but he came from a rich and powerful white Southern family and he had been secretly supporting his once black mistress and their daughter.
Strom Thurmond was a man known and still known for his racist ideals, based on what he wrongly thought was best for...
Dear Senator: A Memoir of the Daughter of Strom Thurmond by Essie Mae Washington-Williams (written along with William Stadiem) is the autobiography of Strom Thurmond's illegitimate, biracial daughter. This is an amazing story by Washington of learning to accept and love her father and the legacy of her birth.
Washington grew up in Coatesville, PA living a fairly normal childhood until she was 16. At this time, three bombshells would change her life forever. First, she discovered that the couple she assumed to be her parents were actually an aunt and uncle. Second, when traveling to SC for the first time for a family funeral, she was exposed to the ugly face of segregation and the abject poverty in which her southern family lived. But the biggest shock was learning that her father was the prominent white lawyer and judge, Strom Thurmond. Her mother was a 16 year old housemaid in the Thurmond household when Washington was born. After meeting her father for the first...
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