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American gothic
The revelation that Strom Thurmond fathered a child with his 16-year-old black maid raises a host of thorny questions about race, sex, power -- and media silence.

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By Rebecca Traister

Dec. 18, 2003 | In 1948, while running for president of the United States on the Dixiecrat ticket, Strom Thurmond proclaimed, "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement."

But in 1925 it apparently had taken neither legislation nor bayonet to force a 16-year-old black maid named Carrie Butler into the bed of Thurmond himself, then a 22-year-old graduate of Clemson University living with his parents in Edgefield, S.C.

This week, it was officially revealed that the union between the former South Carolina judge, governor and senator, who died earlier this year at age 100, and his family's teenaged maid, produced a daughter: Essie Mae Washington-Williams, 78, a retired school teacher living in Los Angeles. In a press conference Wednesday, Washington-Williams announced that she was coming forward because she decided her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren deserved to know "from whom, where, and what they have come" and explained that the relationship between her and her father had been warm, their communication regular. Earlier this week it was reported that Thurmond had put his daughter through college and supported her financially before she was married, and after her husband, Julius, died.

Though Washington-Williams' story garnered headlines this week, the fact that Thurmond had a half-black daughter out of wedlock has been an open secret in South Carolina, amongst Southern historians, and in Thurmond's own Senate offices, it seems, for decades. It is also surely one of the oldest stories in America, one that Thurmond has in common with Thomas Jefferson: The powerful white man, who publicly draws sharp lines between the races, has at his own foundations a barely buried story of racial commingling. "There are many stories like [Jefferson's slave and mistress] Sally Hemings' and mine," said Washington-Williams, clad in a red suit and chiffon scarf. "The unfortunate measure is that not everyone knows about these stories that help to make America what it is today."
The more things change, the more they remain the same. censored2.gif
What, is it news that a racist might also be a hypocrite....?
Donnie Darko
just cuz somebodys a bigoted piece of smarmy crap don't mean they can't use a lil' sexual healin from time to time...
It's all pink on the inside.
but the bloodshot stare of a high school
drop out all-night cashier shone lonelier. In youth
I did not know the body is a hollow
place we hold a spark. O matchstick
life please keep me lit.

S. Delbos

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