In this historically momentous memoir, the segregationist senator’s mixed-race daughter speaks out about her life in the shadows.
Breaking nearly eight decades of silence, Essie Mae Washington–Williams comes forward with the dramatic story of her life. Her father, the late Strom Thurmond, had been the nation’s leading proponent of racial segregation. He famously undertook a twenty-four–hour filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1957, a desperate attempt to save the South from “mongrelization”. Her mother, however, was a black teenager named Carrie Butler who worked as a maid on the Thurmond family’s South Carolina plantation.
Set against the explosive civil rights era, this poignant memoir recalls how Essie Mae struggled with the discrepancy between the generous and even affectionate father she knew privately, and the Old Southern politician, railing against greater racial equality, who refused to acknowledge her publicly. From her richly told narrative, as well as the letters she and Thurmond wrote to each other over the years, emerges a fascinating portrait of a father who counseled and supported his daughter, yet would not break with the values of his Dixiecrat constituents.