By now, you’ve probably heard the curious tale of Verna Byrd, the black woman who discovered that she was actually white. Byrd was born Jeanette Beagle, to Earl and Daisy Beagle, both white, in 1942. She was adopted by an upper middle class African American family after her father walked out on her family, and her mother, who had been in a severe accident, was declared unfit to care for her.
Byrd’s adoptive parents, Ray and Edwinna Wagner of Newton, Kansas, changed her name to Verna, and raised her as a black child. Verna Byrd was raised in the “black experience,” as a light-skinned black girl. Her parents never told her much about her birth parents, whom she describes as “white transients.”
Byrd did not discover the race of her biological parents until 2013, when she decided to research her family tree. She also discovered that she had many siblings, as her mother had given birth to ten children.
“It’s was unbelievable,” said Byrd, describing the movement she discovered that her birth parents were actually white.
Byrd made headlines earlier this week, when her experience was compared to that of infamous racebender and NAACP grifter Rachel Dolezal, but it turns out there’s more to this story.
A 2014 article, published in the North Bend Eagle, a local paper based in Nebraska, revealed a major detail that keeps being omitted from Verna Byrd’s story.
The article, told from the perspective of one of Byrd’s biological nieces, Carry Gerke, who also happened to be researching the family tree, reveals that Byrd, is, in fact, actually black. Byrd was likely conceived when Daisy and Earl, the white couple she came to know as her biological her parents, were separated.
It seems that Gerke’s grandmother, Daisy Beagle, was separated from her husband in the early 1940s. During this time she had a baby. Her husband was listed on the birth certificate as the father, but it was obvious this baby was different than the rest of the family.
Grandmother Daisy was hit by a trolly car in Kansas City and took a year to heal. She reconciled with her husband and they got back together, with the condition that the child she had given birth to in 1942 be put up for adoption. It was a closed adoption, so all information of the deal was legally locked away.
The child, named Jeanette, was adopted in 1943 by a loving family in Newton, Kansas, renamed Verda Ann, educated, married and became a mother. Last fall Verda Byrd decided she was ready to search for her birth parents.
In 2014, Byrd described the new discovery as “overwhelming,” but she appears to have grown close to her newly discovered extended family. Despite the complicated soap opera that is her family tree, however, she tells KHOU News 11 out of Houston, Texas, that she and her siblings “don’t discuss race.”