Sunday, February 25, 2007

Genealogy Makes Strange Bedfellows

A couple of notable genealogists have discovered that the family histories of two presidential aspirants—Strom Thurmond and Al Sharpton—intersected in the antebellum South.

According to the Daily News, the genealogists found documents establishing 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.

The newspaper said the lead researcher was Megan Smolenyak, the chief family historian for and an author of several published books on genealogy. Another researcher on the project was Tony Burroughs, who teaches genealogy at Chicago State University. [Link]
When first told of the connection, a nephew of Senator Thurmond exclaimed, "That's a bunch of baloney," while a niece graciously allowed that "it is wonderful that [Sharpton] was able to become what he is in spite of what his forefather was."

Were he still alive, the Senator would undoubtedly be thrilled, given his close relations with the black community.

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