AfriGeneas World Research Forum
Article on Strom Thurmonds' Biracial Daughter
Date: Friday, 19 December 2003, at 8:53 p.m.
I wrote an article for the History News Network, which will run beginning Monday, December 21, 2003. The article is about Coatesville Pennsylvania, and Essie Mae Washington-Williams, Strom Thurmonds Biracial daughter. I was born, and raised in Coatesville, and my mother grew up on the same street as Essie Mae Washington. If my mother knew her true identity, she would have shared it with me (she passed in 2001). They are going to have to change the saying, "There are no secrets in small towns," that was one that was well kept.
I have the utmost respect for Essie Mae Washington, who is a person of quiet dignity. The article I wrote is not against her, but the segregationist policies of Strom Thurmond. My father, and Grandparents were born in South Carolina. In 1920, my grandfather had to sneak out of Orangeburg, after hiding his family. He was a sharecropper, and the man whose land he worked claimed he owed him money. Owing money to white folks in 1900's South Carolina, could get you a visit from the local KKK. His cousins invited him to come to Pennsylvania, and work in the Steel mills, which is what he did. My Grandparents were just barely a generation removed from slavery, in the 1900's.
My Great-Great Grandmother, Leah Ruth gave graphic details of her time in slavery. She was born in Guinea West Africa, and kidnapped, and sold into slvery when she was twelve. She landed in South Carolina, on a small farm with a man named Robert Ruth. She arrived at his farm in 1830, and by the 1850 census, she had four children, all by Robert Ruth. So much for the idylic life of a house slave. Sometime around 1857, he gathered the children, and Leah up, and put them on the auction block. He sold Leah to a large plantation, and her children to Savannah. Leah remained on the plantation until after the Civil War, when her youngest child, Samuel Ruth, returned to claim her. By the time he found her she was still living in near slave conditions, having to pick cotton to survive.
Leah told about being whipped, and how her son Georgie (her only black child) was killed. She was mad at the Yankees for coming through, and leaving her in South Carolina. She also yearned to go home to Guinea, and spoke of how they lived. She said her father was a wealthy king, and the children panned gold for him. They lived by a river, and she said that Gold flowed from the river. My ancestor was Muslim, and in the picture I have of her, she is sitting with her head covered. I contacted the Guinean Embassy, and was told that there was a kidnapping of the Royal children in 1830. The royal family was named Camery, Toure (Tseko Toure comes from this tribe). The tribe are the Melinde, and the Malinke, who were part of the Mali Empire.
It is amazing that all of these people with so many different stories wound up in Coatesville Pennsylvania. I do not feel compassion for Strom Thurmond, but for the many African Americans who lost their lives living under his racist regime (I do not know a better way to put it). The fact that he got a chance to have his cake, and eat it to, is disconcerting. I wonder what other racist is running around with a love child? Will some benefit come out of this for those who suffered due to the lies of this man?
I wrote the article to tell the stories of people who were oppressed by the likes of Strom Thurmond. I hope that is the message that comes through.