After 70 years of believing she was Black, a Texas woman has finally discovered her roots. Now she’s looking to share her story.
“I didn’t know what I was,” said 75-year-old Verda Byrd, who had been raised as African–American. Byrd was adopted at a very young age by a Black couple who raised her as their own. However, a little digging into her past led to the discovery that her birth parents were actually white.
Byrd tells her unlikely story through Joyce Garlick-Peavy in the book “Seventy Years of Blackness,” in which she describes the search for her biological parents as a love story, local station WLTX reported. Her story first made waves in 2015 when she told KENS 5, that she never once questioned her ethnicity.
“It was never told to me that I was white,” she added.
Missouri court documents list Daisy and Earl Beagle as Byrd’s birth parents; a low-income couple with five kids in the 1940’s. Earl abandoned the family in 1943 and Daisy suffered a severe trolley accident when Byrd was just five months old.
The state took Byrd and her siblings into its care and returned them after Daisy had fully recovered from her injuries. She got all back except one: her youngest daughter Jeanette.
Byrd, aka Jeanette, was already in the process of being adopted by couple Ray and Edwinna Wagner, who later changed the young girl’s name to Verda Ann Wagner. She was raised as the couple’s only child.
After learning of her birth parents, Byrd said she had no regrets about not having a relationship with them. Educationally, financially and culturally, she believed her life couldn’t be matched by the messy life of the Beagles, WLTX reported. Byrd said she believes her birth mother had multiple boyfriends while she was still married to her birth father. But then again, her father was nowhere to be found.
“At this point in my life, yes I have received information and I have been told sometimes Daisy might not have been the most upright mother,” she said. ” …Maybe when mothers are desperate to provide for the children that they have sometimes they might and often do things that are not acceptable.”
Byrd was never able to reconnect with her birth parents but got the chance to reunite with her siblings Sybil Panko(who frequently used the n-word), Debbie Romero and Kathyrn Gutierrez in 2014, according to the station. The three had a falling out soon after they met, however.
Though appreciative of her adoptive parents, Byrd’s book is driven by the belief she was wrongfully adopted and robbed of her white heritage. She recalled the difficulty of trying to fill out medical forms at the doctor.
“What box do I check?” She decided to check “other.”