“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”

For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995, while I was scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records.

In the records, my mother’s father and his entire family were designated black. With her pale olive skin and European features, my mother had kept her ethnicity concealed for nearly a lifetime.

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