History's Most Sordid Cover-Up

By Orakwue, Stella | New African, February 2004 | Go to article overview
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History's Most Sordid Cover-Up

Orakwue, Stella, New African

The history of the former European colonies' mixed-race populations is one of the world's biggest hidden scandals. How did these populations come about? We did not miraculously or biblically produce mixed-race babies from thin air. Most of the black women were raped.


If only I could slap her face. What did she think she was doing? I suppose she was asleep between 1948 and, say, 1970? Those years just marched right past her. No, I don't feel sorry for her. Was she being loyal to "Daddy"? You've got to be loyal when "Daddy" is running for president. I've got to find out more. There are so many like her. Hidden in the back of memories. Ssh. Can you keep a secret? Won't tell if you don't. But lots of people know or suspect. "I feel as though a tremendous weight has been lifted at last, I feel completely free." She is dressed in red. "My children deserve to know from whom, where and what they have come."


Her children come from the Thurmond family line because Essie Mae Washington-Williams (below) has unveiled Strom Thurmond, the American senator famous for having been the country's leading segregationist, as her father. Thurmond died last June, aged 100. But in 1948 "Daddy" was very much alive, and kicking out at blacks, coloureds, Negroes, call them what you will. People not as white as he was. People like, as we now know, his daughter.

Back in 1948 Strom Thurmond was running for president as a segregationist "Dixiecrat". His secret daughter, his black daughter, Essie Mae, was 23 years old. If only America had known. If only the country knew about his black secretchild during the decades when Senator Thurmond fought virulently against civil rights. In the turbulent 1960s, Essie Mae was in her 30s and 40s.


Fourteen months ago, the then Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, praised Strom Thurmond (by then America's longest-serving senator), and bemoaned the lack of votes that had prevented the segregationist becoming president. A lot of "problems", as Lott put it, could have been solved all these years with a Thurmond White House. Wonder what Lott thinks about Strom's big secret.

Essie Mae Washington-Williams is now a 78-year-old retired schoolteacher. Why speak out now that Thurmond is dead and buried and not before? Her lawyer said: "She didn't want to do anything to damage or potentially damage his political career." You what? She didn't want to damage his "political career".

How many black lives and black families did she think "Daddy" damaged and ruined all these years with the poison he and his followers encouraged and spread? That was the moment I wanted to slap her. But then I remembered that she was nearly 80. And I wished she was 40 years younger.

Mixed-race Essie Mae. Biracial. Dual heritage. Call it what you will. Hyphenated blood. Daughter of a white segregationist and a black maid. Yes, Mummy was a maid. 1925: Thurmond is 22, Carrie Butler is 16 years old. Just a maid aged sweet 16 from the black part of Edgefield town, South Carolina.

It flits across my mind when I'm watching Hollywood films of the 1920s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s. I look at the white women dressed up to the nines and having the time of their lives and I think: Who's looking after their home while they're gadding about? Who is doing their washing? Who is doing their cleaning? Who is doing their cooking? And, of course, who's looking after their children? Answer: Black women.

Black maids who freed up white women's time so that they were enabled to pursue "freedom" and "liberation". Black women deprived of time to follow their own intellectual pursuits, but who nevertheless have had it thrown in their face, both subtly and overtly, the stupid notion that white women were "cleverer". But white women were only more time-rich, more leisure-rich, and always assured of regular incomes.

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History's Most Sordid Cover-Up


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