Sharpton: DNA Could Tie Me to Thurmond
Monday, February 26, 2007; 11:04 PM
NEW YORK -- The Rev. Al Sharpton said he wants a DNA test to determine whether he is related to former segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond through his great-grandfather, a slave owned by an ancestor of the late senator.
"I can't find out anything more shocking than I've already learned," Sharpton told the Daily News, which reported the link Sunday based on genealogists' findings.
Sharpton's spokeswoman, Rachel Noerdlinger, confirmed Monday for The Associated Press that Sharpton, who learned about the connection last week, plans to pursue DNA testing. Noerdlinger had no further details.
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 company's chief family genealogist, Megan Smolenyak, said Sharpton would need to match his DNA with a present-day descendant to see if they are biologically related.
"I think the odds are slim he would match," Smolenyak told the News.
The revelations surfaced after Ancestry.com 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, who ran for president in 2004 calling for racial equality, 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.
Thurmond, of South Carolina, 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.
Thurmond was seen as softening his stance later in his long life. He died in 2003, at 100. One of the longest-serving senators in history, he was originally a Democrat but became a Republican in 1964.
His children have confirmed that he fathered a biracial daughter. Essie Mae Washington-Williams' mother was a housekeeper in the home of Thurmond's parents.