The true story of two African-American brothers who were kidnapped and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother endured a 28-year struggle to get them back.
The year was 1899 and the place a sweltering tobacco farm in the Jim Crow South town of Truevine, Virginia. George and Willie Muse were two little boys born to a sharecropper family. One day a white man offered them a piece of candy, setting off events that would take them around the world and change their lives forever.
Captured into the circus, the Muse brothers performed for royalty at Buckingham Palace and headlined over a dozen sold-out shows at New York's Madison Square Garden. They were global superstars in a pre-broadcast era. But the very root of their success was in the color of their skin and in the outrageous caricatures they were forced to assume: supposed cannibals, sheep-headed freaks, even "Ambassadors from Mars." Back home, their mother never accepted that they were "gone" and spent 28 years trying to get them back.
Through hundreds of interviews and decades of research, Beth Macy expertly explores a central and difficult question: Where were the brothers better off? On the world stage as stars or in poverty at home? Truevine is a compelling narrative rich in historical detail and rife with implications to race relations today.
The lives and fortunes, or misfortunes, of Willie and George Muse two black albino brothers who were better known by their circus names, Eko and Ito constitute the underpinning of this ramshackle book by journalist Macy (Factory Man). In 1899 the brothers, both under the age of 10, were at work in a tobacco field in Virginia, when they were kidnapped. They were displayed as freaks for the following 13 years and exhibited in various circuses and sideshows. They were labeled sheep-headed men from Ecuador, ministers from the African kingdom of Dahomey, Ethiopian monkey men, and, most famously, ambassadors from Mars found in a wrecked spaceship. In 1927 the brothers were reunited with their mother after years of her strenuous efforts to get them back. They returned as side-show performers under better, though often disputatious, contractual conditions. There's a page-turner buried in Macy's meandering account, but multiple backstories circus history, Roanoke history, Jim Crow life for blacks and whites, Macy's personal memoir (growing up in Roanoke, writing this book, building a relationship with a surviving Muse family member), and snippets from scholarly writing disrupt the reader's focus.
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The book reads more like a bad history lesson. Greatly disappointed that the book had no real direction or focal point. Basically yet another attempt by a white person to gain some sort of significance off of the African American Community.