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Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 12:27 GMT
Sharpton slave link to US senator
Al Sharpton
Al Sharpton said his only meeting with Thurmond was 'awkward'
A former US presidential candidate has revealed he is a descendent of a slave owned by relatives of late US senator and segregationist Strom Thurmond.

Civil rights activist, the Reverend Al Sharpton, said the discovery was the most shocking moment of his life.

Mr Sharpton's great-grandfather was a slave owned by Thurmond's distant cousin, genealogists have found.

Thurmond - the longest-serving US senator - ran for president in 1948, campaigning for racial segregation.

Thurmond died in 2003 aged 100.

Mixed emotions

Mr Sharpton was overwhelmed by the discovery, he said at a press conference.

The story of the Thurmonds and the Sharptons is the story of the shame and the glory of America
Rev Al Sharpton

The outspoken Mr Sharpton, 52, ran for US president in 2004 on a campaign platform calling for racial justice.

"I couldn't describe to you the emotions I have had. . . everything from anger to outrage to reflection to some pride and glory," he said.

The study by genealogists from Ancestry.com, commissioned by the New York Daily News, found Mr Sharpton's great-grandfather, Coleman Sharpton, was given to Julia Thurmond, whose grandfather was the former senator's great-great-grandfather.

Strom Thurmond
Former US Senator Strom Thurmond fathered a biracial daughter in 1925

"In the story of the Thurmonds and the Sharptons is the story of the shame and the glory of America," Mr Sharpton said.

The two men met only once - Mr Sharpton visited Thurmond with the late soul singer James Brown - but Mr Sharpton described the moment as "awkward".

"I was not happy to visit him because of what he had been all his life," he said.

In 1957 Thurmond used a 24-hour filibuster to stop the Senate voting on a civil rights bill.

In 1925 Thurmond fathered a biracial daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, in an affair with his family's black housekeeper.

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