Verda Byrd, a 76-year old woman from Texas who was adopted by a Black family and raised believing that she too was African-American, discovered a few years ago that her biological parents were actually white. For 70 years, she thought she was a light-skinned Black woman, but based on genealogical records she obtained 6 years ago, she is actually white!
Verda shared her story through her book Seventy Years of Blackness which was published in December 2017. But her story was widely known since it nearly broke the Internet in 2015.
At the age of 10, Verda knew she was adopted. But she didn’t really think about finding her biological family as her adoptive parents, Ray and Edwinna Wagner, raised her as their only child and made her feel completely loved until their death in 1989.
She never questioned her race until she started investigating her background. According to Missouri court documents, Verda’s biological parents were Daisy and Earl Beagle, a white couple who were struggling economically with four other children by the time she was born.
“I didn’t know what I was,” she told KENS 5. “It was never told to me that I was white.”
Earl reportedly left their family in 1943 and Daisy has been hospitalized for a year due to critical injuries from a trolley accident. Jeanette, who was the youngest, and her other siblings were placed into foster care.
While Daisy regained custody of her other children, Jeanette has been adopted by the Black couple and changed her name to Verda Ann. Since then, Verda believed she was Black. But she said she didn’t regret anything in the past and not meeting her biological parents “because the way I understand it now is they probably wouldn’t have been able to provide the good life that I’ve had.”
By the time Verda discovered her true heritage, Daisy and Earl have already died long before. She had the chance to meet her three sisters Sybil Panko, Debbie Romero, and Kathyrn Gutierrez in 2014.
However, their reunion was short-lived when they argued after Sybil used the n-word. Even when Sybil died in 2016, she requested to ban Verda on her funeral. What hurt her more is that her other sisters stopped talking to her as well.
“What did I do?? I found you,” she said. “You are my sisters.”