The Los Angeles Times reports that Essie Mae Washington-Williams, who earned her master’s in education from USC, recently died at the age of 87. In 2003, Washington-Williams revealed to the world that she, a black woman, had been fathered by staunch segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond.
Thurmond had died five months earlier at age 100, having never acknowledged that his liaison with a family maid when he was 22 had produced a daughter. At 78, Washington-Williams decided she owed it to history to speak up.
“My children ultimately convinced me that history needed to know about Thurmond and that I should set the record straight,” she wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2003. “I am not doing this for money. I am not suing his estate. I just want to tell the truth.”