Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond

by Essie Mae Washington-Williams

Hardcover, 2005

Status

Available

Publication

Harper, (2005). Signed by the author.

Description

The illegitimate daughter of the late Senator Strom Thurmond breaks her lifelong silence. Her father, the longtime senator from South Carolina, was once the nation's leading voice for racial segregation; he mounted a 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. The memoir reveals a brave young woman who struggled with the discrepancy between the father she knew -- financially generous, supportive of her education, even affectionate -- and the old Southern politician who refused to acknowledge their relationship in public.

User reviews

LibraryThing member altima313
This book is Essie Mae’s story and a living historic chronicle of the life and times intertwined with her real life situation. Williams's story can be viewed as a tragedy of the American south with its unenlightened prejudices and hypocrisies; but it also can be viewed as a story of family ties, of love and honor. Her restraint and respect for her father in an ugly period of our history--one that included segregation, racism and Jim Crow is incredible, which help to mitigate the harsh realities of her circumstances.

An argument can be made that since her mother, Carrie was in the employ of the Thurmonds, their sex may not have been entirely consentual (much like Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings). Strom Thurmond didn't have to do any of the things he chose to do for his mulatto daughter and he risked a lot by making special trips to see Essie Mae and giving her cash. He also can't be blamed for his daughter's long silence. He never told her to not tell anyone. That was Essie Mae's choice alone.

Essie Mae shows herself to be far more forgiving than most other people would be. Accepting her father's shortcomings whilst never agreeing with his policies and ideals but most poignantly of all she proves herself to be a good and loyal daughter, something that Strom Thurmond did not deserve in my opinion.

There is one moment that I had to question in this book. When Essie Mae leaves her children in California to attend her husband, Julius’ funeral. I understand the financial part (help from her father at this time would have been then) but the emotional deprivation of saying goodbye to their father seemed crucial. Still, Washington's story is one of courage, perseverance and grace.

I would have liked to see pictures of her mother, aunt and uncle in “Dear Senator” and she never explains what happens to relatives including her brother Willie, Father/Uncle and Cousin Calvin.

This is an amazing story by Washington of learning to accept and love her father and the legacy of her birth. The story is well written, fascinating and bittersweet to read. This book is not only personal but very factual. This is an interesting historical document. “Dear Senator is written with candor, honesty, sadness and spirit.
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LibraryThing member carterchristian1
Essie Mae Washington-Williams wrote these memoirs with the help of a writer, experienced in telling the stories of those associated with celebrities, so there is some question to what extent everything in this book is from the perspective of Thurmond's daughter. However, in any case this successful educator, almost 80 years old at the time of writing, hurried to get it into print in time to capitalize on the recent death of the Senator, probably provides most of the interpretation. She is telling the story of many, many biracial children from the South, as far back with the offspring of Sally Hennings and the emotions must be common to most of them. There is the dream of a mother who figures as a romantic figure caught in a trap of cultural biasis starcrossed as any Juliet. Essie Mae insists her father did not marry until after he thought her mother was herself married to another. She does not become bitter because her father gave her hope,whatever his motives, that she could have a successful life, and she did.

However, it is not the Senator but the daughter who is most important in this story. He was clearly a flawed figure, in fact a failuer in politics, despite his elections, it was she who became the success, holding true to her ideals.

It is a good read and leaves on thinking about how politicians compartmentalize their lives and exclude family members.
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LibraryThing member clik4
Breaking a code of silence, Essie Mae Washington–Williams writes her story within the history of the United States Senate. Ms. Washington-Williams’; the daughter of South Carolina’s Senator Strom Thurmond, lived a hidden life from the spotlight of the political drama of one of the leading voices for racial segregation. Essie’s mother was a black teenager who worked as a maid in the Thurmond household and was taken care of by Thurmond - silently.

Essie lived a dicotomous life loving the father she met at 16 years of age; a financially generous, educationally supportive man contrasted with his belief in the old southern philosophy of racial inequity and complicated by a dual hidden life. Essie emerges as the voice of harmony and higher character, a woman who accepted her father as flawed, continued to honor him while managing an affectionate peace with the the man and the conflict.
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LibraryThing member CasaBooks
If you haven't read this - it's a Recommend !
Essie Mae Washington
Bi-racial illegitimate daughter of Strom Thurmond
2005 book. She born in 1925, found out he was her father in 1941.
Did not go public until after his death.
What an incredible true story.
Read in 2006.
LibraryThing member cathysusanne
What a wonderful lady Essie Mae Washington Williams was. Her love and respect for her father is evident in this eye opening book about her life and her father, Senator Strom Thurmond.
LibraryThing member jwood652
One of the most prominent Southern politicians and segregationists in American history, Strom Thurmond, has a relationship with a slave culminating in the birth of a daughter. Finally, his daughter shares her story. This incredible story offers insights into not only Essie Mae Washington-Williams and her personal life but also delivers a unique view into American history and politics as it relates to race. We gain a good exploration of the history and Southern viewpoints. Essie Mae doesn't just tell us about her life and meetings with her famous father but helps us understand, her father, Strom Thurmond, and how he did right by her despite the constraints of his leadership and upbringing in the American South.… (more)
LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
Many would likely take Essie Mae's husband's side regarding how she kept secret her relationship to Sen. Strom Thurmond, given the senator's political stance. But she relates her story and experience in a way that helped me appreciate the very emotionally and culturally complex situation she was in. It cannot have been easy to be relegated to the sidelines as your biological father ascended the political ladder to greater heights ("greater" in the sense of going beyond being a small-town lawyer, and not that I believe he was a great man). It also speaks to Essie Mae's deep sense of respect and discretion that she did not come out until after his death, and even then, reluctantly. A provocative autobiography that will have readers examining their own views on race and power in this country.… (more)
LibraryThing member jwood652
One of the most prominent Southern politicians and segregationists in American history, Strom Thurmond, has a relationship with a slave culminating in the birth of a daughter. Finally, his daughter shares her story. This incredible story offers insights into not only Essie Mae Washington-Williams and her personal life but also delivers a unique view into American history and politics as it relates to race. We gain a good exploration of the history and Southern viewpoints. Essie Mae doesn't just tell us about her life and meetings with her famous father but helps us understand, her father, Strom Thurmond, and how he did right by her despite the constraints of his leadership and upbringing in the American South.… (more)

Language

Original language

English

Barcode

11086
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