Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sharpton's Ancestor Was Owned by Thurmond's

Sharpton's Ancestor Was Owned by Thurmond's
"The Rev. Al Sharpton, the prominent civil rights activist, is descended from a slave owned by relatives of the late senator and one-time segregationist Strom Thurmond, a genealogical study released Sunday reported.

"It was probably the most shocking thing of my life," Sharpton said of learning the findings, which were requested and published Sunday by the New York Daily News. He called a news conference to respond publicly to the report. "I couldn't describe to you the emotions I have had . . . everything from anger to outrage to reflection to some pride and glory."

Sharpton, 52, said he had suspected that his forebears may have been slaves but had never attempted to confirm that or find out any details.

"I had never really traced my family history, particularly on my father's side, since my parents separated when I was going on 10 years old," he said.

The newfound knowledge that his great-grandfather was a slave, Sharpton added, gave him a new perspective on his life.

"You think about the distance that you've come, you think about how brutal it was, you think about how life must have been like for him. And then you start wondering whether or not he would be proud or disappointed in what we have done," Sharpton said, with his eldest daughter, Dominique, 20, at his side.

The revelation was particularly stunning for the juxtaposition of the two men's public lives.

Sharpton, known for his fiery rhetoric and a tendency to intervene as an advocate in racially charged incidents, ran for president in 2004 on a ticket promoting racial justice. Thurmond made his own bid for the presidency in 1948, promising to preserve racial segregation, and in 1957 he filibustered for more than 24 hours against a civil rights bill.

After his death in 2003, though, it became clear that Thurmond had a complicated history with issues of race. A 78-year-old retired schoolteacher, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, revealed that she was the offspring of his extramarital relationship with his family's black housekeeper.

"In the story of the Thurmonds and the Sharptons is the story of the shame and the glory of America," Sharpton said Sunday.

Sharpton said he hoped the news of his roots would help heal the lingering wounds of slavery."

"If we open the scars just to leave them open, we've done a misdeed to both sides," Sharpton said. "We should open them and deal with them toward healing them so we can come together on some genuine level."
What an amazing revelation. I appreciate Sharpton's openness to healing and reconciliation. For all he is, that is a sign of his character. It again reminds me of our call to reconcile men to God and men to each other.

No comments:

Post a Comment