One of the things that make America so unique is that we’re all immigrants from somewhere. America is a country of immigrants. Except for Native Americans, all people came to this great country seeking a better life for themselves or their family, except for millions of slaves who were taken here against their will at the threat of death. Slavery is one of the greatest stains on the history of the United States, as it separated people from their families and their heritage.
Many African American people in the United States today know very little about their family history. Because their ancestors were held in bondage, they were denied their personal histories and forced to start over without them in the New World.
It has been centuries since many Africans were sold into slavery and brought to this country. And only now are some people discovering the countries of origin and other facts about their heritage because DNA tests and family heritage resources are becoming more common and accessible.
One 75-year-old African-American woman from Converse discovered, through meticulous research that she actually had a white mother and white father, although she had been raised as an African American.
Verda Byrd has since turned her adoption story into a book. She searched for her biological parents for years and described it as a love story.
“Am I black or white?” Byrd asked. “It really doesn’t matter to me because I’m not changing.”
For seventy years of her life, she thought she was black until she found out her true heritage was different.
“I didn’t know what I was,” she said after she learned about her white parents.
In her book, Seventy Years of Blackness, Byrd tells her story through character Joyce Garlick-Peavy. Before the book was published, Byrd’s story erupted online in 2015 when she learned about her biological parents.
During an interview from that time with KENS 5, the wife and mother of one spoke about how she had no clue her ethnicity was different than she’d been taught.
“It was never told to me that I was white,” she said.
Byrd’s biological parents were Daisy and Earl Beagle. They were a poor white family with five children in the 1940s.
Earl abandoned the family, which forced 27-year-old Daisy to seek work. Bryd was just five-months-old at the time. However, Daisy fell from a trolley and became critically injured. That’s when the state of Missouri took Byrd and her siblings.
When Daisy got better, the state gave her every child back except for Bryd, known to Daisy as baby Jeannette. She was in the process of being adopted by Ray and Edwinna Wagner, who was changing her name to Verda Ann Wagner.
Verda is grateful for her adoptive parents because they were able to provide her with a life that the Beagles could never have dreamed of – Daisy had a scandalous and disloyal history with other men.
By the time Byrd learned about her biological parents, they were both dead. But she did visit their graves.
Byrd plans to donate part of the profits from her book to support foster children in Texas.