About four years ago I read Dear Senator, a memoir by Essie Mae Washington-Williams. Ms. Williams is the African American love child of the South Carolina Senator (and former Governor) and his family's African American maid, Carrie Washington.
My mother is from South Carolina, so all my life I've had ties to the South, and for many years I've known about this "secret child." My mother even knew someone who went to college with her. So when I'd heard that Ms. Williams had "come out" and written a memoir, I couldn't wait to read it!
I kept thinking, what would have happened if Ms. Williams had been born a boy who grew up to become a Civil Rights leader at the same time his father was a segregationist governor. And another thought was, what if Thurmond, a young law student at the time, had been willing to give up everything to be Carrie Washington?
Thurmond did care for Carrie, but not to the point of giving up everything for her, and their affair lasted over several years, off and on. But when she died, Thurmond didn't know until Essie told him.
Thurmond provided financially for his love child and stayed in contact with her all of his life. Ms. Williams still maintains contact with his family--which is her family too! I couldn't help but feel for both of them (Essie Mae and Strom) as I read her story.
Thurmond wanted to do the right thing by providing for his daughter and being a presence in her life. But if the truth about her had ever been discovered by the public, his career would have been destroyed. And Ms. Williams had to settle for what little of himself her father could give her, while he shared the limelight with his wife and their children.
If you're at all interested in race matters and love stories, I highly recommend Dear Senator!
Had you ever heard of Essie Mae Washington-Williams's story before the news broke about it a few years back?
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