Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Sharpton-Thurmond Connection

Every now and then a piece of news comes along that stands out from the babble of talking heads. Such a piece of news hit a wires over the weekend. I’m speaking of the Associated Press piece in the Daily News about the Al Sharpton-Strom Thurmond connection.

Apparently, their paths have only crossed once - in 1991, while Sharpton was on a visit to Washington, D.C. , and obviously awkward because of the late South Carolina senator's background as a prominent defender of segregation. "I was not happy to meet him," Sharpton said of the senator who died in 2003.

Their paths intersected again last week when Sharpton learned he is a descendant of a slave owned by Thurmond's relatives. He was stunned by the information from the New York Daily News, which had obtained it from genealogists who tracked Sharpton's roots and unearthed the data.

"It was probably the most shocking thing in my life," Sharpton said at a news conference Sunday, the day the tabloid revealed the story.

The professional genealogists, who work for Ancestry.com, found that Sharpton's great-grandfather Coleman Sharpton was a slave owned by Julia Thurmond, whose grandfather was Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather. Coleman Sharpton was later freed.

"Based on the paper trail, it seems pretty evident that the connection is there," said Mike Ward, a genealogist with Ancestry.com. The revelations surfaced after the Web site contacted a Daily News reporter who agreed to have his own family tree done. The intrigued reporter then asked Sharpton if he wanted to participate. Sharpton said he told the paper, "Go for it."

The genealogists, who were not paid by the newspaper, uncovered the ancestral ties using a variety of documents that included census, marriage and death records.

Strom Thurmond was once considered an icon of racial segregation. During his 1948 bid for president he promised to preserve segregation, and in 1957 he filibustered for more than 24 hours against a civil-rights bill.

But Thurmond was seen as softening his stance later in his long life. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he had fathered a child by one of the servants who worked in his parents household. That child (Essie Mae Washington-Williams) is now a retired school teacher living in Los Angeles. The secret was acknowledged by his children. He died in June of 2003 at the age of 100. One of the longest-serving senators in history, he was originally a Democrat but became a Republican in 1964.

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to conclude Black History Month than this revelation (as if Thurmond’s fathering a black child were not enough). And keep in mind, this is the same gent who married a 22-year old at the age of 66 and had four kids as a results. Shy old fox.

Wait a minute, before you count the feathers in your Jim Crow here’s something to read:

“Spin Doctor vs. Found Guilty”

Blood wanted to be a nurse’s uniform.

So on the night in question
it became orphan floodlit or
inflicted-injury down the length of a neckline
on stilts stalking his girlfriend’s sister
of double derby queer cute at-a-glance
ignoring the warnings of Cheetah chance
in sheer bug spray a guy with a butcher knife
slipped sliced stuffed it up the hole
to squeeze squirt spill in spongy approach
mumbling could you be my savior
or a frightened blouse fogged or florescent
in acoustics according to the backpacker’s manual
or did he lick a dish in theory
wearing a hippie fringe in a vernacular nosedive
or was the mugger a Basque
who don’t believe in wasting good mascara
or a full fiber sample in spandex wooden limbs
plus motive equals bugaloo down Broadway
or try break dancing pass the turkey breast
because either way
it could never butter your coffee

A Third-Eye of Hindsight

-A calculated job at life, wearing handcuffs.

-The whole day spent fighting a fire with ice cubes.

-A place where the self-righteous can spit.

-The number of light bulbs needed to change the world.

-Going to sleep to see if you snore.

-An opera preformed in mime.

-A gun digitally programmed to self-aim.

-Reasons flesh-tine band-aids need to get real.

-Offer her your seat and she’ll squat.

-Simply worded, there are no words.

Poems first published at: http://www.eastvillagepoetry.com/
Visit my e-zine: http://www.concelebratory.blogspot.com/
And my music blog: http://www.medleymakersant.blogspot.com/

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