tv Beth Macy Discusses Truevine CSPAN December 30, 2016 8:02pm-8:52pm EST
answer ya saunders, proprietor and descendent of the hughes brotherses who were two twin albino african-american men born in the jim crow south who became a side show attraction. saunders was a caretaker of willy hughes who was living. macy died not get to talk to hughes himself but she uncovered the history of two brothers and it's a heartbreaking, terrible story, and it's a story of the jim crow south. and of the way in which it treated individuals. the book is a feat of research. macy is dogged reporter and also story, telling. will not reveal what the actual story that she tells us, and here is macy herself to talk
more about her book, "true vine." >> good morning. i'm alice carey. as a reviewer for book page ide read a lot of books and pun of my favorites is "truevine." took beg macy to 25 years to unearth the saga, requiring research to untang al history from truths and the result is deeply moving and end-end leslie compelling two brothers, a kidnapping and a mother's question e quest and a true story of the jim crow south. truevine has been short lift it ford the kirkus prize and long listed for the andrew -- her first book, "new york times" bet
ser "factory man" was an number russ numerous lists and is the currently being developed into a -- by tom hanks. >> thank you. "truevine holiday pass all the almosts of a southern goth nick novel but it's true. >> as a young journalist who required in roanoke no 1989 to write feature exteriors i took two years to muster the nerve to mess with nancy and she was the story's gatekeeper, the greet niece of hughes. she heard rumors in row yoke. photo, the best story in town but no one has been able to get it. by the time i poke my head intoer there tiny soul food restaurant with the idea of writing a story about her family
agrees uncles it was very clear that all personal details were going to closely held, trickling out in dribs and drabs and very minute on nancy's timeline. the first time i asked if i could interview willy muse he was then in his nines she point today a sign on the wall. a customer had stenciled the word, a board and if given it to her. the sign said. sitdown and shut up." willy was not now nor ever bell available for comment, so hoping to generate some good will for a future story on her uncles a wrote a feature about their rarity, place where the menu never changes ands ands and even down. he johns of black roanokeers could resides the do recite the daily specials. tuesday, spaghetti or la lasagna can wednesday is it's fishing and thursday country fried stake. friday is rib us but come early
but thus ribs sell out quickly. the line out front forms at noon but lunch doesn't begin until 12:15 and before. ung she lad to go home and check on uncle willie. nance request ken painted rock on her cash register. the was not about picking it up presumably in jest, should a couple of-under offend her illinois we returned for lunch two days after my story because rib froms were any favorite. managey shook her finger at me and it was clear i wasn't getting anything close to a pat on the back. already mother, dot, sat nearby, peeling potatoes, watching the young and restless about cringening about what her daughter was about to say. nancy had be ready to send my pack egg the fire time i walked into the restaurant and asked about her uncles but dot
persuade her to let me stay and do the restaurant feature. s i actually saw the very first episode of the young and restless. i bonded quickly we dot and was peeling potatoes to, much to nancy's should grigg. dot and i both e both agreed that victor newman is a sound sound drail. nancy said the story brought out a bunch of crazy while miami. paying customer busy some walked past me without further comment and was leaving now to feed uncle willie and turn him in this bed, leaving the shop as paper as five or circumstance times a shift. if nancy had her way her greatif uncling's store would have stayed bury. the firefighter she head it -- the first time she heard it she was ju a tiled and offended embarrassing embarrassing and painfully raw. it was 1961 and black and white people wanted to know were the
light skipped brothers block or white and had they really beenen trapped in a cage and forced to eat raw meat? these mean denotice deserve the gawkers who came by their hours, banging on the front door. some ofmer first memories of people banging on thin dar. by the time i came on the scene no one talked about savage order circuses in front of nancy, sturdy woman who is skin was nearly white as kev e chef roz coat, she baked bread and was every bit as fierce. enred sharif who knew the family well and grew up in the neighborhood around the coner from the muses and is now a social sciences prefer do he had never contemplating brig bringing the such ultimatum.ti than exceptionally guardiansed family.mi you have too ick baby steps and think of them as a tribe. they i cool roaring back if you
fall out with them. it was ten more years before nancy warmed up enough to let me and a cowriter author a newspaper series about her uncles uncles and only after willyieer muse's death in 2001 if was 108. she didn't review much. she invited my fellow reporter, a photographer, and me inside the muse brotherses house one time. he made rev rep to family bible and for years after the series ran, whenever i visited the restaurant she hint thread was s so much more to the story than we had found. she actually would call me scoop. our newspaper was the same one thatted a mocked her families version of the kidnapping story. it looked the other way when city officials decimated two historic black neighborhoods in the name of mid-century progress, via urban renewal, or as the black community catcalled it, negro removal. the newspaper charged we the
city knocked down homes. i refused to print black wedding announcements until the 1970s because roanoke had no blacke middle class. i myself could use if a pair of pregnant black teens to talk about the high pregnancy rate. a story that went viral before the internet term exist kid pled the girls othen of ridicule. even rush limbaugh joined in with a rant. when the girls dropped out of school shortly after my store ran, it was devastating. words linger in words matter issue learned and it's not possible to predict the fallout they can have on the subject's life.lo it was take me 25 years, finally to earn something nearing nancy's to trust to convince her want intent on exploding splittg her relatives for my open
financial benefit. in 2013, when i hit a snag updating -- actually wrote an updated storying on the pregnant teens more than 20 years after the original explosive first story -- it seemed fate that one of. the, now a 37-year-old mother of four, lived just around the corner from nancy's northwest roanoke rank house. after grangery relatives tried to bully me into not rounding the story, physically threatening me and demanding a meeting with my bonuses, nancy assured we you don't need their permission to do the story just like you don't need mine to write the book. and yet months earlier nancy's permission exactly what i thought. on the eve of publishing my first book i'd given her advance reading company of factory man. dog-earring a tarted that detailed decades of miss
treatment of black furnish workers and block dome workerses who wore two girds -- girdsles tea same time. nancy said it's been that way down through hint. a friend hover mymans would be vacuuming down the steps on a housekeeping job and the husband would feeing her up from behind me mom had to fill in one day. and she said to the man, don't make me open up your breast, by, the tip of my notify. nancy and i came with a long was from the dives sit down and shut up. it was no leanings gimme when i asked for her permission.el i want end help help and including one albino news still living in truevine. i think about it. she said.
and he the message was clear was not to call back. this november 11th. write on my calendar, thanksgiving came, almost compliments imsent her a christmas cart with also note, here's my phone number. more than six weeks later, oh, she enjoyed making me wait -- she finally called. i waited, she said, so i could give it to you as a christmas present.s a it was christmas morning and nanny decided to let me write her uncle's story on one condition. she stayed no matter what you find out you have to remember in the end they came out on top. i knew the story's ending, assured her and enterinterviewed team people, all of whom described the late life care she had begin them as impeccable, extraordinary. way less certain about who forts
the into servitude in to fate place, the struggle to have their humanity acknowledged and how exactly during the harsh years of jim crow had george and willie managed to escape. >> flouting was it all those h years knowing that this remarkable story was so close and yet so far away and did you ever feel like giving up? >> well, did give up because she said no. she actually said -- i asked her you didn't even let me interview him and say, i would hold the interview until after he passed away because that was the rule. she didn't want anything written until she passed away. she said, you're too curious. she didn't think i could hold the interview. said if i said i would hold the interview, i would. but she didn't believe me. now she says, oh, when you walked into that shop the first time, and you just thought i would give you the story, said
to myself, scratch has met her match. i was scratch and she was the match. >> you call yourself a unicorn becauseow stayed in roanoke for decades and how has your staying power allowed you to right writh write both books. >> not a lot of books written from ruralmer.r. live in a city of a quarter million and most reporters move on after a few years. some of our best reporter areea now "the new york times" andrk m have done great stuff and i decided to stay. i stayed at the rope roanoke loe time for 25 years.me at th so i am able to write these story us bus i have time on my side.
robert careo says time equals truth. so let me do a restaurant feature, then started just spending time there some sometimes was thinking maybe she'll let me do the story but it just became -- i have these places in -- people in town i call my story beacons, people who they can lead me to other people in the community, and atp the time in the early 'anothers and newspapers across at the country, diversity was a big push. newspapers were mush better staffed then. and i had this fantastic first editor, wendy, who was tough as nails, and she the paper was spending a lot of emphasis on having more black ed tore, more black reporters and doing stories that more accurately reflected the diverse any our community, and so that if i was writing a general story about something, and roanoke has a 23%
black population and if one of my sources was an african-american she would send it back so that itas great train fog are long journalists. that was wonderful training and that led mo to a beat they the paper called i was the families beat reporter but what i did is i had been trained to work outside already my zip code and to be getting stories that nobody else really had the entrees into because i had spent time with immigrants, refugees, caregivers for the elderly. veterans with ptsd and i had really kind after made my -- that my beat. so one of my favorite characters in the back is -- he passed away reachedly but al holland.. a hughes -- distant muse relative. a civil right lead nero known, and he was a 11-year-old boy in 1927 when harriet muse got her son's back. and his job after school was, he
would help a blind man sell brooms on the city mark that he made. and so he had this wonderful, like, kind of insider view to the story, and he was there when they came home that night, and so he is 98 but but i knew him because i had done numerous articles on him before and i think because i made the kobes in the community, i was able to get people to trust me. but it was the time the fact that i'm still there, this is -- these are my people. know them. and they trust me. >> maybe if she had said yes, you wouldn't have been ready to write this book. you said people like joanne poindexter. >> yes. joanne was in the newspaper's first black reporter, and so the neighborhood in roanoke that truevine is set in is called the west end and the microvillage that only the people rougher to
as jordan's alley, and joanne was able to -- who is still -- she doesn't live in the neighborhood but she goes to church there and she was able to put me in touch with 80 and another and 100-year-old people who could help me bring the neighborhood alive. one ofs the of the are, what happened, how did she get them back and were if the lied better in the circus than at home, which begs the you, question, how was life in jim crow in row whke, virginia, what was --- roanoke, virginia. was it better than police officer on the road and i was able to drive around with olders people -- i didn't always drive around but i always got my best stun when i drove around. like when your kid tierian easterlies and don't want to talk to you except in the car because you're looking at something else.o because people, when they -- not only would what they were seeing would job -- jogmer memory but
we were both facing forward and i did that ash technique i used -- not a technique, nothing special, but did that a lot in fact factory plan. i would say, well so and so said this and then a new story would come out. so it's my m.o., driver around. >> you also si,. >> with my phone on record with their permission. >> you also say that it kitcheni are a great place to do an interview. >> oh, yes, kitchens. we all know kitchens, right? that's where everybody lands at a party, right? everybody is in the kitchen. even though the host doesn't want you there because people are more comfortable in the kitchen. i always ask, if we can do the interview in the kitchen. i usually have some requests written out and my recorder, and it's easier -- and i also take notes because i don't trust the recorder, and it's easier if i have all my stuff on a table.
it's because i want people to be in the kitchen because that's where they live. >> by staying in one place you have not limited yourself in terms of ferrell because just a new blocks away from this, another person wrote another best seller. >> yes. >> jordan alley. >> rebecca. hen reits -- henrietta a black away block away from'm the moussaoui -- from in the muse family, these two stories came from this one tiny place. and. >> their vary different stories. very similar but different. >> yes. >> the fact fleeces story you wrote are so few and far between at that time photographicr evidence and research played an important role. what point dud e did you realize
the photoeds were vital. >> i was interviewing a kirk us historian and re reminder me that's circus managers would often change their names. the bauer brothers were called darwin's miss can rinks, an boosters frock mars, sheep-headed men, never called george and willy muse so if i got into a database could i type ko and iko it that want bring up other innings so i had to be co cog any -- cognizant of that and the photographs were the actual and the us clippings so accuse -- never roadsides what the brothers thought. even the story about the reunion, never recorded theer families' point of and quoted harriet plus in dialect but is
was clear that they didn't actually talk to her. but through photographer i fine is just incontrovertible evidence and this is the earl o's nope from ohm this as child exhibits they liked like scared young brothers, had been taken from their mother, they war told she was dead and they should quit crying. and i just studied and it then somebody said there's a person in charleston named joshua bond, professor, who studies historical costuming so e-mail him the picture and he saw so much more in the picture than mi eyes could see almost said the seams were stretching, he said these constitutes are two sizes too small.re they're actually kind of nice suits so it was like there was some care given to the roots of these buys monkey men at the time.
butly tie i is a sue -- askew and the suits too short. dig you have that evidence. you can kind of really tried to -- suss out what is going on in then you favor lambly stories of willie telling everyone and georgie would look after him and a popular song in 1914 called it's a long way to tip rarely, the anthem about missing moment. so you can sort of layer the facts with interviews and stories and memories, pictures and the documentation as it existed in sort of this very racialized lens. i trade to bring it into its fullness. the pictures were just great, to the. found this picture -- this is from around 1917 with the circus, and so mr. barnes writes a memoir in the 1930s in n which be brags about buying
them, and making them a paying proposition. so, that's more proof. the was proud of it because why wouldn't he be because everybody thought african-americans were subhuman and we gas -- he was getting something over on them. so this picture i showed to nancy when i found its and it's the first picture of them withir trues and we weren't driving around it but that picture prompted a memory. she remembered willie say thean first tame they were in pictures it was just a photo prop. so one way managers would makeie extramans they have pictures of the acts and sell them and keep the money.so that was just supposed to be photo prop. they said they can't play instruments. turns out they were kind of geniuses. they could hear a song and play it once. by many, many accounts. and including willie at the end of his police officer. we have argued that i account share but we have a recording of
him as 1 a 5-year-old singing, it's other long way to tiperrari and they're a picture of the book of his playing his guitar nance where was able to land the layer of its firs being a joket but the joke was on them because thigh are wonderful musicians. here's another picture of them one of their -- algae barns in 1922, and once their mother got them back and was able through very protracted legal battle to get them paid you can see in the pictures they have norring as in their life, they're happier. this is casual backyard picture, that's what called back stage in the circus. and they had friends and playedd music. i interviewed people who remember them playing music and the music fav them this agency
and this power that music does. like any skill we have inch i -- like writing makes me feel good when it's writing and music made them fell good and game the something to do and self-pour power. -- self power. >> and can you describe what their police officer was -- what their life was like before their mother got them back. >> i'm sure that at least 13ig years went by. could have been the -- the documentation is scant on that but he said -- willie alwaysth told nancy that he -- they were gathered kind of closely in the knginning.g. there was a bit of stock home syndrome going on, they are illiterate, never a low toddes go to school, he taught him thank you oh wright his name even though he was totally blind and hat was a big moment.
he didn't have to sign an x.as b they -- the side show manager -- their main manager was really the only person he ever said anything bad about and the really hated him, even at age 107 remembered some pretty vial things about him. but once she get them back, they were -- they knew they could come home after that, even though they still try to take advantage of them and not pay them when the could get away with it. they became happier and as i say that was really the only world they knew. >> the traveled the world and became famous. >> yep, and the headlines of enemy "new york -- of "the new k times." they performed before royalty in england, when willie was at the home in roanoke, which was about bought and paid
for. that's what she did by getting the legal settingment, of the whenever the door bell would ring he would go, house keeping, which he learned at a hotel in london and i love that. >> one of the real heroes of this book is willie and george's mother harriet muse, can you describe how she became -- >> in 1927, roanoke, virginia, very harsh place to be an african-american, there was actually city code that said where you could live, and you couldn't -- segregation was just so engrained ingrained inside e. so at the circus blacks were told they had to sit in the back, under the big top.p. if there was a carnival they would make one day out of the
seven-days the day that african-americans could come but the circus only came for one day and so in 1927, i think it was october 14th, it had come to her -- she told relatives in a dream that her brothers were -- her sons with with the circus and this is a story that family pieced down. in 1927 the toppa law enforcement official in roanoke, virginia, was the founder of the local kkk the largest kkk in the state. a semi respectability institution. so when the. ... n unloads, goes over to the fairgrounds, and that's where they set up. the fairground is where the kkk had had the rallies. so, the side show was the one of the rare places in the
circus where segregation broke down because there weren't seats. you walked around. like you would go from-- the crowd would sort of walk from one part of the stage to the other as each act demonstrated their skill or answered some questions. i have a picture of her from the next day so i know what she >>he >> creek tennis.er >> men and eight police officers they want to take
the brothers to the next top the mother wants them to come home. then manager says they are mine and he has paperwork with their last names as his last name and somehow she talked the police into not going back to the circus than a couple-- later she hired a young and ambitious lawyer and filed a lawsuit against the greatest show on earth. and she kept at it because they could get away with that they would not paid them so they would take them to another show then switch them to another show and pocket the money and she found another lawyer that was very clever and had then
declared incompetent so the court was in charge of the checks they could be in canada or oregon but there was the bales bond and that would track and down to get the circus to pay fixed. >> figure now how to do that was a mystery that was fun to figure out. >> they were written about inte in the headlines but she did not know where they were at because the eddy york times now that intersected with the. >> large the untold because of the race and social status help us to understand this process -- this process and not even just from the
south but to interview the family at any point. >> i interviewed the oldest started to work there in meth '30's. -- in the 30's he will have to write, colored after their name. and that gave me some feedback on what it was likeke to be a reporter but i wrotehe down some of the quotes thee way the media entreated their union the day after she found her son the family reunion was told of then the newspaper's they never quoted the family but the also reported they were not over develop did mental
capacity which i refuted over and over again and interviews. profiling bam them up following year said their eyes did not quite focus than above monkeys and kangaroos. but that was because of their albinism there is no mention of the years of servitude, lawsuit or poverty or jim crow which was widely believed that blacks were subhuman. in the 1928 season opener in europe times headline is they are happy it did not mention the lawsuit that they were back and happy because they finally had the permission of their parents.
on this almost to observe real racial thinking the predominant way people thought because that is what they lived in those were the challenges that they face. >> you think it is a bookok about the circus and it is with those fascinatingat stories but so much about race.much a and here you are this roanoke times reporter and had not treated them well so how did you get people tot trust you had no reason? and what were some of those stories? >> one story begins with joanne poindexter the first black reporter now retired in her sixties she called all the older ladies in the church that had grown up inod
the neighborhood and ask if i could interview that machine helped me so much. when i wrote that pregnant and proud story that got me in so much how water, -- hot water i had trouble getting people to trust me provide did not mean to make thosese girls the subject of ridicule. i honestly didn't but that is what happened but she would go out, there was a church starting in a crack house of was trying to get the neighbors to open up and joe and went and sat on the porch of every neighbor and she would vouch for me and she did the same thing years later. again they had read the from
my stories and have seen myhe work i wasn't just doing in the drive five i was really spending the time withwa people. i can reap the bounty of my time there. >> one low point of your research you complained about the difficulties of your task and she gave you a valuable piece of advice that said if we only roach the histories of people who left a detailed records we would only get to know wan the privileged you have to put that together how did that inspire you? >> there were so many holes and i thought that's right. when she put it like that it gave me permission maybe my story was not perfect with
every single year every place they were but therereasoni was the reason because ofse the institutional racism.n black-and-white about that then that that helps me. also it was hard to gete basic facts. the years are listed in numerous different years in the document progress justpl complaining to a younger relative if she thinks the story was hard to write she should think about how hard it was before them to live for cauchy better picture her ass up. [laughter] i tried. >> tell us about their lives
after they left the circus. >> because of the secondary lawsuit, and the checks were sent home most money was funneled into a retirementand mo account social security did not exist so by the time they retired a really nice house was bought and paid for. her mother and grandparents the all lift in the house together and they protected them the barber would come to the house to cut their hair so they didn't have to go out they watched over them. later in his late nineties he was in the hospital by medication, incredibly
healthy but they thought he had a ball obstruction they put him in the hospital to watch him overnight the nurse put an heating pad on him it was turned up way too high than the next morning he had life-threatening burns that took two years to heal. the award in was not happy about this. so found a scrappy formidable lawyer and sued the hospital largest employer in roanoke still and one a settlement that enabled her to working and have full-time care for him.and so some of the best sources of them are the nurses that would come to the house to attend to him is burn wounds and take care of him.like--
the you could see how the story progresses in thend beginning as a cautionary tale state together or you could be kidnapped like them and by the end of their lifersew giving his nurse and vice. feed them honeybee better than the person they treat you. >> q. describe him to be so gracious that good discoid -- god is good after everything he had been through. >> and said he almost had a magical quality? >> yes.
initially i had little trouble convincing my editor i could find enough facts to make the book so i was calling nancy she was giving me permission so finally i did more research and the addendum to my proposal how would find out when i finally said sold the book she said i told you just remember they always come out on top in the end she believes all goalie is responsible in the book will do well because uncle willywi is looking '04 me and she is right. [laughter] i love that. are a >> your books are about connecting people in the past and the present so get a
away from your diems parfum and computer back to the basics of paper and scissors and real people be a great reporter talking stranger to stranger can you elaborate? >> documents can only take you so far memoirs that guy bragging about buying thisis all that but there is no substitute to go meet people and hear their stories. the best parts of the book i think our the micro aggressions that the men and women lived with phil little girls walking to school past the white ladies house and the parents are trained to squawk racial epithets.
these memories are they accepted sex as partial payment. i would not have had these stories of five did not go out at the time to have these stories and have them open up. >> in addition to these remarkable stories but comment because they were portrayed to be in brussels can you talk about their intelligence? >> returns out a friend of mine deposed him for the bernie lawsuits so i took care not to lunch i had>> trouble getting those final documents. with this circuit court and i clerk had to help me and he was giving me advice how to find those he said i depose him.he he sa
he gave me some detailst was he place said did you think he was mentally incapacitated? he said oh my heavens no. in was in the december he had a better handle on his christmas shopping and he did and he was blind. and new-line lou was getting what and how much money it would cost. the doctor, the nurses, he had a way about have. wonders remembers walking up the stairs and he heard her footsteps he said u.s. air? she said it's the nurse he said as the nurse have a name? you can tell me your name. >> house this that make the leap from right-wing
articles to books?ie >> i was given in vice which sounds simple but it gave me the confidence it is just like one very, very longicle, feature article so all the same tools and techniques documents, the experts, comparing expert showing pictures committed is all the same skills but over more time and this cannot be totally apart with factory may and my editormy said the first time he read
it like to books the first part is southern virginia the second part is like china. trade t so this suggestion was to build on what was going on in china early in the book at the same time so it wouldld be more seamless so i had that in my mind when i was raking "truevine" i have this plastered all over my wall it is like tryingng eraser you can move it so i would keep up with the little threads and that is the big difference.ke, i i will plot out a chapter then this section of want each chapter to read standalone but each section to have a kicker and the
chapter to have a kicker and then feed on the next chapter. ♪ them to keep turning the page. >> there are so many facets. how did you figure out thatha structure? by like how you start with the basic story ben he tried to get the story. >> basically it is chronological after that except where i can find this out next so at adds anotherth layer of context. in newspaper we're not allowed to include ourselves and the story. i just went along with it but i feel like it is almost
more honest showing "the reader" how we got the information but in factory man some of the most details was as constant calling me on the phone relentless trying to control the story. one day 8:00 in the morning he already called me three times by a court team he says i guess you are sleeping in today. like that just shows his relentlessness. the i would have left some of the best death on the cutting room floor. >> we can take audience questions. come to the microphone.s >>.
>> i have enjoyed your presentation and i feel like it should say i don't give up a feel like we have then with you through your journey to write the bookis and how did you celebrate when you knew it would publish? >> i called nancy i had a little celebration with her my husband and i celebrated. [laughter]eek, the b the book comes out onoi tuesday we have of book one party in roanoke and the family is coming and all those old ladies i hope are coming 102 years old from brougt "truevine" from the world of sharecropping alive i said