The Rev. Al Sharpton is descended from a slave once owned by Strom Thurmond’s family, according to genealogists working on behalf of The New York Daily News. Sharpton called the revelation “probably the most shocking thing in my life.”
Sharpton learned of his connection to Thurmond, once a prominent defender of segregation, last week through the Daily News, which asked genealogists to trace his roots.
“It was probably the most shocking thing in my life,” Sharpton said at a news conference Sunday, the same day the tabloid revealed the story.
Some of Thurmond’s relatives said the nexus also came as a surprise to them. Doris Strom Costner, a distant cousin who said she knew the late senator all her life, said Sunday she “never heard of such a thing.”
The revelations surfaced after Ancestry.com contacted a Daily News reporter who agreed to have his own family tree done. The intrigued reporter then turned around and asked Sharpton if he wanted to participate. Sharpton 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.