White Sharptons of Florida recoil at slavery's horrors

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MARIANNA, Fla. -- She is white and related to a U.S. senator who championed segregation.

She also shares the surname of a prominent black civil rights leader -- not because of any blood connection but because of her family's long-ago ties to the slave trade of the South.

Sharon Sharpton Hyatt, a 61-year-old widow who lives in a ranch house along a dirt road in this rural section of Jackson County, was unaware of the connections until the News contacted her...

A team of experts from Ancestry.com...determined that Hyatt shares her maiden name, Sharpton, with the Rev. Al Sharpton because her great-grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Sharpton, was the son of Julia Thurmond, whose family enslaved the reverend's great-grandfather, Coleman Sharpton, in the 1860s.

"Oh my God, that's horrible," Hyatt exclaimed... She and her sister said they would consider coming to New York to meet the Rev. Sharpton if he were interested.

Asked how the world should view the "Sharptons of Florida," the sisters gave a simple answer.

"Just ordinary people," [Barbara] Bailey said.

"Yup, just people," her sister agreed. "Just people who are not responsible for their ancestors and what they did."

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