Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


A telling remark

In the “inconvenient coincidences” category, it seems that Al Sharpton’s great-grandfather was a slave owned by relatives of the late segregationist US senator Strom Thurmond.
Thurmond’s niece, Ellen Senter (via an AP report [link to no longer works]) provides an interesting perspective:

I doubt you can find many native South Carolinians today whose family, if you traced them back far enough, didn’t own slaves,” said Senter, 61, of Columbia, South Carolina.

Except, that is, for the ones who were slaves, Mrs. Senter.

11 comments on "A telling remark"

  • A Fake Ellen Stenter says:

    “Certainly, no one in my country club.”

  • fishbane says:

    I’m sure there were quite a few children of slaves in SC.

  • Chris says:

    Indeed. That’s the basis of my remark. I should have said “those who were slaves. or their descendants” to be more precise. I was seeing red at the time. Strom Thurmond does that to me.

  • Fred says:

    A lot of those descendants of slaves are also descendants of slave owners. People who think that there are distinct genetic groups in this country forget that there was a population of women who weren’t allowed to say “no”. And that’s before the consensual intermarriages since the end of slavery.
    Somehow, though, I doubt that’s what anyone in Strom Thurmond’s family was thinking of.

  • Adam says:

    She said “family,” not “ancestors.”

  • Chris says:

    What is the difference between a “traced back family” and “ancestors” that would strengthen her point?

  • Adam says:

    You know, those people aren’t family.
    And I don’t think it strengthens her point.

  • Nicko says:

    And I don’t think it strengthens her point.
    No? I think it does, in so far as her argument is a defensive one. At the heart of the story is the idea that is it inconvenient that Al Sharpton’s ancestors were owned by Strom Thurmond’s ancestors, somehow visiting the sins of the father on the son. Surely it would be just as inconvenient to for Al Sharpton to find that he is himself descended from colonial slave owners or indeed West African enslavers or slave traders.
    Suggesting that South Carolinians are descended from either slave owners or slaves is a denial of the (admittedly limited) multiculturalism they have there and only helps to perpetuate a segregationist agenda. Accepting that family trees fan out and intersect rapidly helps people to appreciate that their heritage is not solely dictated by their surnames and it also shows the fallacy of visiting the sins of the fathers on their sons.

  • albatross says:

    Is there any research on how much of American blacks’ genetic material comes from former slave owners? There are famous cases like the blacks with DNA from either Thomas Jefferson or his brother, and there’s no doubt at all that a lot of slave owners did about what you’d expect with attractive young women who were completely in their power, but it would be interesting to see hard numbers.

  • Chris says:

    Yes, Nicko.
    Strom himself had a child with one of his household servants (who as African-American).
    Sharpton is now pursuing a DNA test to determine if he is related to Thurmond.

  • Phill says:

    One of the strange ironies here is that when the Romans invaded Britanica as then was they used negro mercenaries as part of the invasion and occupation force. So as a result most Brits (and come to that most Europeans) have negro ancestors.
    So Strom was himself almost certainly descended in part from the people he loathed. Although when you get real bigots like him the reason is often even closer.
    When you get back far enough (about AD 0) almost everyone is related to everyone else.

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