We are at the beginning of the 20th century, at a time when “colored” people were still considered commodities. This is the story of the muse brothers, black albino kidnapped by a traveling circus in order to play a most thankless role.
George and Willie Muse were abducted in 1899 from Truevine, a town in the state of Virginia (United States), when they were aged nine and six respectively. At the time, black people were still treated as commodities to be exploited. These two albino brothers therefore had white skin, blue eyes, as well as long white dreadlocks sometimes voluntarily erected on their heads to accentuate their “spectacular” side. Their appearance considered « exotic » aroused the profit motives of two other brothers: the Ringlings.
Exploited as freaks in a traveling circus, the two Muse brothers renamed Eko and Iko were presented as errors of nature, cannibals and sometimes even « ambassadors of the planet Mars ». True international stars between 1920 and 1930, long before the appearance of the small screen, the two brothers were invited to « perform » in places as prestigious as Buckingham Palace or Madison Square Garden where thousands of spectators gathered to observe them.
Their mother named Harriet could not accept this more than degrading situation and for years defied white men to bring them back to their native land, a real crusade.
Their story is told in a book called Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South. (See cover below)
Its author, journalist Beth Macy, spent 25 years digging into this story by investigating and interviewing Nancy Saunders, a descendant of the Muse brothers. Beth Macy was interviewed by the Vice News site in a poignant article published on October 28, 2016.
Source: Vice News – Time