What will Sharpton’s DNA tell Us?

Just when you think you have heard it all, up pops news that brings us around full circle. The latest buzz is Al Sharpton’s shocking news that he has ancestral ties to Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

According to Mike Ward, a genealogist with Ancestry.com, “Based on the paper trail, it seems pretty evident that the connection is there.” Now Sharpton is asking for a DNA test to confirm the findings that his great-grandfather, a slave, was owned by an ancestor of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond.

This is a most interesting connection as Strom Thurmond is known as a racial segregationist who debated for more than 24 hours against a civil-rights bill and the Rev. Sharpton, who ran for president in 2004, supports civil rights. Both are, or were, strong political leaders.

As you know, Thurmond’s first and oldest child, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, was the daughter of a maid who worked in the Thurmond family. It should be of no surprise that we now find that the Rev. Sharpton is linked to the Thurmond family, since many native South Carolinian families were once slave owners.

The question I’m sure must be running through the minds of the Thurmond family is “What’s next?” In speaking with Sharpton recently, he certainly was reflective on how he will now entertain the idea that his gift for public service and communication may have come from his soon-to-be-relative, cousin Strom.