Verda Byrd finally tells her story in her book, Seventy Years of Blackness published on December 8, 2017. The book by the American gives details about growing up as an “African American” before discovering that she was white. Verda Byrd’s remarkable story was uncovered and publicized in the media in 2015. The author was invited to various TV and radios shows to share her experience post-discovery and how her perception of her assumed and actual race had affected her life.
Byrd was born September 27, 1942, in Kansas City, Kansas, to Earl and Daisy Beagle, her biological parents named her Jeanette and she was the youngest of 10 children, according to People. Earl Beagle abandoned the family and Daisy was left to cater for the children. However, after a trolley accident, Daisy could no longer take care of the children. The children were given up to foster care and at age 2, Ray and Edwinna Wagner adopted Jeanette and named her Verda.
Verda’s adopted parents were from Newton, Kansas City, and her adopted mother was a light-skinned African-American woman. Verda’s adoption was successful because Edwinna was light skinned and assumed to be white. In the 1940s, the racist adoption law was fully in effect, which prevented African-Americans from adopting Caucasians.
The American author’s African-American parents raised her as a single child and were able to give her a comfortable life. According to Byrd, “My life was completely immersed in the black culture and why wouldn’t it be? For all intents and purposes, I was black.” A report on ABC News said that Byrd discovered her true race a long time after the death of her adopted parents when came across the adoption documents with her birth name. The Kansas City adoption court officials unsealed her adoption records and she confirmed her true race.
In Verda Byrd’s revealing book, she explores the black culture and how it influenced her life. However, she still considers herself an African-American. The mother-of-one spent 70 years of her life thinking she was black, in an interview with ABC News in 2015, she said, “You cannot erase 70 years of your life and just accept what the papers say instantly. It’s like 70 years pass by and in a blink of an eye, you’re a different race.” According to ABC News, strangers assumed Byrd took after her adopted mother, Edwinna Wagner, because of her light skin.
The Verda Byrd’s life is documented in the 100-page book Seventy Years of Blackness published by HH Publishing.