Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond

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9780060760953: Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond

In Dear Senator, Essie Mae Washington-Williams -- daughter of the late Senator Strom Thurmond -- breaks her lifelong silence and tells the story of her life. Hers is a story seven decades in the making, yet one whose unique historical importance has only recently been revealed. Until the age of sixteen, Washington-Williams assumed that the aunt and uncle who raised her in Pennsylvania were her parents. The revelation of her true parents' identities was a shock that changed the course of her life. Her father, the longtime senator from South Carolina, was once the nation's leading voice for racial segregation; he ran for president on a segregationist ticket in 1948 and once mounted a twenty-four-hour filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1957 -- in the name of saving the South from "mongrelization." Her mother was Carrie Butler, a black teenager who worked as a maid on the Thurmond family's South Carolina plantation.

Set against the explosively changing times of the civil rights movement, Washington-Williams's memoir reveals a brave young woman who 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 their relationship in public. She describes what it felt like to face overt racism, especially in the slow-to-change South, despite the fact that her father was the most powerful politician in Dixie. From her richly told narrative emerges a nuanced, fascinating portrait of a father who counseled his daughter about her goals, and supported her in reaching them -- but who was ultimately unwilling to break with the values of his Dixiecrat constituents.

With elegance, candor, and spirit, Essie Mae 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 generations.

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About the Author:

Essie Mae Washington-Williams worked as a teacher in the Los Angeles school district for twenty-seven years. The mother of four children, grandmother of thirteen, and great-grandmother of four, she lives in Los Angeles.



William Stadiem was a Harvard JD-MBA and Wall Street lawyer before embarking for Hollywood, where he has written the screenplays for such films as Franco Zeffirelli's Young Toscanini, starring Elizabeth Taylor. He wrote the bestselling Marilyn Monroe Confidential, and Lullaby and Good Night with Vincent Bugliosi. Formerly the Hollywood columnist for Andy Warhol's Interview as well as food critic for Los Angeles magazine, Stadiem lives in a home overlooking the ocean in Santa Monica, California.

From Publishers Weekly:

"Every girl wants her daddy," says the recently revealed daughter of an affair between 23-year-old Strom Thurmond and the family's 15-year-old black maid, "and I wanted mine." In this surprising and sometimes poignant memoir, Washington-Williams reveals how, when she was 16, she learned that her real father was "a handsome, charming, and rich white lawyer." Washington-Williams was raised by an aunt; her biological mother, who died at 38 in a hospital's poverty ward, rarely appears. But Washington-Williams fashions her a kind of love story: "I knew [Thurmond] loved my mother. I believed he loved me, after his fashion." His fashion, as he lives out his political career—governor, presidential candidate, senator—involves surreptitious visits marked by vacuous advice and extravagant gifts. Much that others might have found bitter is given a rosy spin: as a great-aunt remembers slavery, "The massahs all looked after their children, no matter who birthed them." As Washington-Williams has it, Robert E. Lee was a "great American" and "Strom Thurmond turned out to be right about a lot of things, though segregation wasn't one of them." Washington-Williams asserts, "I am every bit as white as I am black, and it is my full intention to drink the nectar of both goblets," and notes that she has sought to join the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Readers are left to sort out the contradictions for themselves. Photos. (Jan.)
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Washington-Williams, Essie Mae; Stadiem, William
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