Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond

Dear Senator

She was being raised by her mother's sister and her husband. This discovery was dropped on her in the most unusual way, first by her mother, and eventually her mother introduced her to the man who was her biological father, the Senator. This book tells the story of Essie Mae's discovery of her unusual family lineage, her eventual relationship with her father, how she kept it a secret until after his passing, and her reconciling of her feelings throughout the course of her life. Strom Thurmond's politics always made my stomach turn and this book did not endear him to me at all, despite the generous forgiveness bestowed on him by Essie Mae.

Even though I read the book, I am still trying to imagine how she came to terms with her feelings and her father. Apr 02, David Ward rated it liked it Shelves: Strom Thurmond was a powerful U. Senator from South Carolina and a former governor of the state as well. He was a senior statesman in the battle against civil rights in the South.

He died at the age of one hundred in He was married twice; he married at the age of forty-four and was widowed thirteen years later. He and his first wife had no children. Thurmond married f Dear Senator: Thurmond married for the second time at the age of sixty-six. His second wife was twenty-two at the time of their marriage.

They had four children, the first of whom was born in Six months after Strom Thurmond's death, Essie Mae Washington-Williams came forward to publicly announce that she was Thurmond's daughter. Washington-Williams' mother had been a housekeeper for Strom Thurmond's parents; she became pregnant with Thurmond's first child at the age of sixteen and gave birth to Essie Mae Washington on October 12, Williams received some financial support from the Senator during his lifetime, and she generally saw him at least once per year.

However, he never publicly acknowledged his daughter's existence during his lifetime. Less than a year after his death, Ms. Washington-Williams spoke out about her birthright. One thing is for sure: Essie Mae Washington-Williams is an exceptionally tolerant and forgiving woman. If there was ever an author who deserved to draft a poison-pen tell-all, it is this author.

However, she has foregone the opportunity to spill.

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May we all be so forgiving. May 22, Kara rated it liked it. I liked the book. It provided a refresher on some important history. The memoir was a little repetitive and shallow. The extent of Essie Mae Washington's self reflection and analysis was repeating and accepting that she wanted to be included--publicy and otherwise--in Strom's life, but she understood why she couldn't. In the end, of course, her existance did become public. But I was looking for a little more introspection into what it meant for her to be bi-racial, bi-cultural.

She talked about I liked the book. She talked about how she is both slave and slaver owner and how she joined the organization, Daughters of the Confederacy, but her analysis remained fairly superficial.

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I wanted her to be more political, more angry, more in-your-face-strom, but she wasnt. Then i realized that perhaps it wasn't fair to make those demands on her. But that lead me to want her to talk more about how she reconciled her position as his daughter and precisely why she did not hold him accountable--more than just "that's the way it is in the south.

Having this said, I did enjoy the book. Maybe there's a little bit of essie mae acceptance in me after all. Aug 07, Morgan rated it really liked it Shelves: Paints a surprisingly complex portrait of a man I always assumed hated black people. Aug 15, Delmer rated it really liked it. This book was about Strom Thurmond, a strict segregationist who fathered a daughter with a black woman and never acknowledged her publicly, even though he met with her secretly and gave her money for herself and her family over the years.

Even when he had his own family, he continued to see his daughter "on the side", lest his political career would have been ruined. Still, it was good to see how she dealt with it. I would have sung like a canary.

An Evening with Dr. Essie Mae Washington-Williams

Jan 31, Dan Quigley rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: South Carolina Midlands residents. I found this memoir to be extremely interesting. No fiction writer could have dreamed of all the plot twists this story of complex characters living through difficult times portrays. I love the honest and straightforward way Essie Mae tells her story, then how she backs away from making the moral judgements so that the reader can decide alone who was in the right. All of the main people portrayed in this book are done so as complex characters.

I can see why some many? African-Americans would r I found this memoir to be extremely interesting. African-Americans would rate this book poorly. Many would want to see Strom Thurmond portrayed as a shallow, two-penny villain, and would demand Essie Mae angrily set him straight and tell him what for. They might want a melodrama so that they can feel angry. Instead, we are given a rich, deep portrayal of a complex relationship. Essie Mae does not provide shallow gratification for self-righteous, militantly angry readers.

These critics might also forget or ignore the fact that Essie Mae is half white. Despite identifying most of her life as black, by the end of her life when she is writing this account of her relationship with her father, she has learned to embrace her white half and no longer considers herself as simply African-American. She can not be classified as a sell-out to her race since African-American is only half her identity.

I don't think anyone who writes as honestly as this sells out anything anyway. The reality of life and relationships is that they are complex, especially those formed over a long period of time and under unique circumstances. The relationships between Strom and Essie Mae's mother as well as between Strom and Essie Mae herself are portrayed convincingly for me as ones of love based on two-way purely consensual relationships in both cases. Hard-hearted cynics with axes to grind are going to want to believe otherwise, but the text is explicit on this point, and I find Essie Mae's account convincing.

To believe their relationships were based on money rather than love requires cynics to bring their own baggage into the story in order to read it the way they prefer. One of the things I most appreciated about the book were the many powerful local history lessons, some of which, like the lynchings, have been long forgotten. I live in South Carolina, very close to many of the settings of the scenes Essie Mae describes. Aiken, Edgefield, Orangeburg, they are all less than an hour's drive. No South Carolina history book will picture the history of South Carolina the way Essie Mae has, certainly not the textbooks of the public school system.

However, what emerges from her account seems a truer and more helpful account of what really happened in this part of the country, why it did, and how all people concerned felt about it. Pitchfork Ben Tillman, Calhoun, and all the other key figures of South Carolina history are portrayed from a unique and honest perspective in this book. There are too few histories like this one being written today, histories that talk about the people, how they lived, what they cared about, how they felt about events, what their hopes, dreams, and aspirations were. I wish there were more books like this one.

Aug 18, Aprylle rated it it was ok Shelves: Well this book was certainly an interesting story, and it did give some unique insight into a side of Strom Thurmond of which I was unaware. It seemed like the author struggled, admittedly so, with her opinions of her father. On one hand she deplored his politics, and hated how he never officially acknowledged her or that she was his daughter.

On the other hand, she consistently looked for reasons to excuse his racist ideologies. Other than that, the writing was not great, it was very colloquial. I imagine that makes it easy to read for certain types, but I expected more from someone who professed to be so well read and intellectual. Overall, the story is compelling, but some tidbits of her life were just plain boring. There's no way she would have been able to write a book without this claim to fame. Reading about segregation and her relationship with Thurmand was what was most interesting.

Others have had similar stories. To say upon hearing that Strom Thurmond had an African American illegitimate daughter was simply mind boggling. How can you say you want rights for only one set of people yet in your private life do another? As far back as the late s when the author was attending South Carolina State College, paid of course by her father , Ebony has known about the story of this woman, but not until after Senator Thurm To say upon hearing that Strom Thurmond had an African American illegitimate daughter was simply mind boggling.

As far back as the late s when the author was attending South Carolina State College, paid of course by her father , Ebony has known about the story of this woman, but not until after Senator Thurmond's passing in , did his daughter come forward and tell her story. Ebony did a featured story on her, as well as showed pictures of her, her kids and grandkids. Also, although I initially didn't read it there and someone else pointed it out to me, it seemed as though Essie Mae's mother and the Senator continued their relationship long after Essie Mae was born.

And come to find out that his other children did claim and consider her family so I am glad for that. Oct 08, Anita rated it really liked it. I found the author's story fascinating and sad. She showed such character through her very complicated childhood and then adulthood. I have to admit that I was surprised by the support and tenderness that Senator Thurmond showed his "secret daughter", albeit behind closed doors. In some ways it makes his racist policy-making even more despicable. I couldn't help but wonder if Essie Mae had been born today, a more open relationship with her father might have been possible.

I guess I always assume I found the author's story fascinating and sad. I guess I always assumed he had sworn her to secrecy and it surprised me that this was not the case. If you have read this or if you decide to read it, please let me know - I'd love to discuss it. Mar 31, Carolina rated it really liked it. I was disappointed in Ms.

Washington-Williams's interview on 60 minutes when this story broke, as she seemed very protective and defensive of Strom. She redeems herself in this book. This book reads like a who's who of South Carolina racist politics. It will make me look twice into the namesakes of the roads, schools, establishments, etc.

Mar 13, Kathy rated it liked it. This was a quick read. It was amazing to me that the secret lived on for over 60 years. Essie Mae is very clear that she kept the secret, especially after Strom Thurmond became an extreme racist and white supremecist. He did help her financially but never acknowledged her as his daughter, although there were several times when Essie Mae was able to feel how much he loved her mother. A very sad story of how attitudes in the south controlled three people's lives. May 27, Kathy rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Wow, how do you live with the secret that your father is one of the most Racist men in America and you are his mixed race daughter.

How do you establish a relationship, long for the love and attention that only a father can give a daughter. How do you tell friends and your husband this is the man who's bloodline you carry. Dec 13, Mary Frances rated it liked it. I find nothing to admire about Strom Thurmond, but this book at least humanized him a bit.

What I think is more interesting is the author's view of her father- hurt and yet strangely admiring. As a window into a life formed before the progress of the civil rights movement, it fascinated me. Nit terrifically well-written, but still worth a read. Oct 16, Marianne rated it it was amazing.

This lady has done her research on South Carolina history and made her story of being the rather unacknowledged daughter of former Senator Strom Thurmond a winner. Race relations would be improved if everyone read this book. Oct 07, Melinda rated it liked it. I purchased this book years ago and finally decided to read it. It is interesting to read the thoughts of Strom Thurmond's daughter.

Essie Mae Washington-Williams didn't know or meet her father until she was 16 years old which was in Her life always had unexpected curves: Despite all these unusual, traumatic life experiences Essie Mae survived. When reading this memoir, one has to s I purchased this book years ago and finally decided to read it. When reading this memoir, one has to separate themselves from todays world, and not judge Essie Mae by today's standards. In writing this memoir, Washington-Williams gives an authentic description of her life experiences as a Black woman in South Carolina during the 40s and 50s.

On top of that she finds out her father is Strom Thurmond, one of the worst rabid racists in the country. I'm glad I waited to read this book until now because I was able to read with much more understanding of why Washington-Williams acted during this time of her life. I can't imagine being in her shoes even now, let alone in the 40s and 50s in South Carolina. Feb 13, Carroll rated it it was amazing Shelves: Her mother, however, was a black teenager named Carrie Butler who worked as Breaking nearly eight decades of silence, Essie Mae Washington—Williams comes forward with a story of unique historical magnitude and incredible human drama.

I learned so much about racism from this autobiography. This book surprised me by keeping my interest. I found myself feeling good and bad for Essie. Shocked about thurmond but still not "feeling" any of his actions. I would say I like this book more because she gave me a deep look at history in South Carolina which somewhat explains the actions today. When she quoted " she is every much as white as she is black" I loved that.

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It's true even though the world viewed her as black as with all biracial children. She didn't struggle with identity crisis. She had a lot of heart break in life but she persevere. It couldn't have been easy but she did. I really enjoyed this book. Outstanding Enjoyed this book so much. I admire Mrs Washington-Williams for her integrity and bravery. Nov 27, Bliss rated it it was amazing Shelves: I am thankful to the late Mrs.

Washington-Williams for undertaking the difficult task of allowing us to glimpse her life. We all have our own issues to deal with our lifetimes. Some are worse than others. I know my own and can only imagine those that lie deep within others, so deep that they dare not share with anyone. I respect the anguish and turmoil that the author shared, as well as her joys. What is it like to learn that the people you thought were your parents are not? How is a woman's psyche I am thankful to the late Mrs.

How is a woman's psyche affected when she is denied fulfillment of the desire to have a close relationship with her biological mother? How does it feel for a young woman to grow into adulthood knowing her father is a man who keeps her existence pushed into a back corner of a dark closet? Washington-Williams is not the first woman -- nor will she be the last -- who has these types of obstacles in her life.

But her "accident of birth" is what makes her story unique. As much as I enjoyed reading about her life, her emotions, her assessment of the actions of those around her, I also enjoyed reading the many historical facts about the cities she lived in and visited, Strom Thurmond, the United States Feb 14, Tilara rated it really liked it. Essie Mae Washington-Williams passed away last week, therefore when I saw this book on the library shelf, I knew that it was time to finally read her memoirs.

Honestly I cannot remember a time, when I didn't know the name Strom Thurmond. South Carolina is my home, and therefore Strom Thurmond good or bad is a part of my story as a South Carolinian. The dignity and grace that Ms. Thurmond throughout his life, and then after his death, illuminates her as a person of quality a Essie Mae Washington-Williams passed away last week, therefore when I saw this book on the library shelf, I knew that it was time to finally read her memoirs.

Thurmond throughout his life, and then after his death, illuminates her as a person of quality and deep moral convictions. The book is a very honest and frank look at her life, before she knew who her birth father was, after the shocking revelation, and then the preceding years. Since all of the leading characters were people that I have heard and read of throughout my life, I found that I could hardly put this book down.

Essie Mae devoted her life to her children, and the children in which she taught, however I think that her lasting legacy, shall be the dignified manner in which she handled the position she was born into. In reading Dear Senator, I was amazed by Ms. Williams' poise and grace. Neither of those attributes can been seen in Ms. I think it's important to acknowledge events for what it is, without my personal opinion of what really happened. Whether or not Sen. Butler's relationship was consensual, why Ms.

Williams is protective of her father, why her mother chose to let her sister raise her; all of these decisions are not up for debate for an appropriate response. I simply admire Ms. Washington for sharing her story. I learned tidbits of SC history, such as the story behind the lynching of Willie Earl, the "relatively progressive" beginnings of Strom Thurmond's political beliefs. I think this memoir offers great insight into the prevailing beliefs of prior generations of Americans. It doesn't necessarily mean I must agree or disagree, just that the information is there to make an informed choice.

Jun 16, Lindsay rated it liked it. Essie Mae was the illegitimate daughter of Strom Thurmond and in his lifetime he never publicly claimed a relationship to her. She and her mother respected his desire for public secrecy and took advantage of any chance to connect with him privately.

I was angry at the hypocritical ethics of Strom Thurmond. I was also amazed to discover that he led a long and prosperous political career. Maybe that shouldn't have amazed me given the aforementioned ethics It was definitely an interesting story Essie Mae was the illegitimate daughter of Strom Thurmond and in his lifetime he never publicly claimed a relationship to her.

It was definitely an interesting story but I rated it a 3 because I didn't feel like Essie Mae's representation of her own feelings was entirely honest. Sponsored Products are advertisements for products sold by merchants on Amazon.

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Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond Paperback – January 24, Breaking nearly eight decades of silence, Essie Mae Washington–Williams comes forward with a story of unique historical magnitude and incredible human drama. Her mother, however, was a black. Editorial Reviews. From Publishers Weekly. "Every girl wants her daddy," says the recently revealed daughter of an affair between year-old Strom Thurmond .

When you click on a Sponsored Product ad, you will be taken to an Amazon detail page where you can learn more about the product and purchase it. To learn more about Amazon Sponsored Products, click here. 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. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

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Williams tells her story in such a way that you can't help but feel as though you're right there with her. Search WorldCat Find items in libraries near you. Life on the Color Line: It was the smell of money. This story helped me feel Essie Mae's pain and finally freedom to share her family roots.

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There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. While I may not always understand her, Essie Mae was a strong woman with a clear sense of her own identity.

'Dear Senator,' from Strom Thurmond's Daughter

The reader has to realize it was a different time and things like this were kept quiet or a secret. Her grace, poise and composure to treat her father the way she did showed what a strong woman she was. Her forgiveness and understanding is model for all who feel they can never forgive a parent or other who betrayed them. It's inspiring, interesting, and tormenting.

It's a great real-life example of civil rights and the complicated relationships involved when you choose to take sides. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. Essie Mae Washington-Williams' courageous memoir is as powerful as it is emotional. What made this a phenomenal read is that Mrs.

Williams raises the same questions most of us would raise, yet she is dignified and on some level, seems to share an understanding with her now-late father. While they never do forge a traditional father-daughter relationship, the history and intricacies of her story are a priceless addition to the historical achieves of the United States in general. Her life is one that is unfathomable to many today, certainly to my generation. And at the same time, Mrs. Williams tells her story in such a way that you can't help but feel as though you're right there with her. The book was quite a read, a real page turner.

I wasn't surprised that the Senator sneaked to the Slave Cabin and fathered a child. He was such a hypocrite. The daughter had no choice of who her parents were. It's the historical race problem America was birthed with. One person found this helpful. Many of us often question ourselves and God about our purposes for being.

I am sure Essie Mae Washington-Williams never believed her purpose would be to do her part in exposing one of the greatest wrongs of racism, classism, and hypocrisy south of the Mason-Dixon line. Throughout his lifetime her father, the late Senator Strom Thurman, while overlooking his own hypocrisy, lived and breathed segregation for the deep south.

Washington loved him and believed he loved her and her mother. She spent the majority of her life keeping their secret. I believe coming forward after his death was what her father would have wanted as he had fulfilled his purpose to make it so. I like the perspective from which she and William Stadiem tell her story.

Washington's book contains moments of downright laugh out loud humor and moments that had me in tears before I was even aware. I did laugh out loud when she, as any loving daughter would have railed against then Senator Trent Lott ,from the Great State of Mississippi, for speaking out of turn. When I first heard him make that historic or depending on your perspective horrific statement, I thought, " Washington is one of the lucky ones.

I applaud the Thurmond and Williams families for doing their part to be role models in trying to make life a little bit easier and clearer for all of us.

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