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Two African-American albino brothers, George and Willie Muse, were the grandsons of former slaves and sons of tobacco sharecroppers born in Roanoke, Virginia, in the 1890’s. Harriett, their mother, brought them up in poverty.
The two brothers were kidnapped as boys in Truevine, Virginia, in 1899 by bounty hunters and forced into the circus. Upon their capture, they were falsely told that their mother was dead and that they would never return home.
The Muse family came from the tiny rural town of Truevine, Va., where, even after emancipation, the black population still faced the virtual enslavement of the sharecropping system and the vitriolic racism of the Jim Crow south. A thriving chapter of the Ku Klux Klan had formed in nearby Roanoke, boasting a membership that included many of the area’s leading citizens, and lynchings were all too common. It was against this backdrop that Harriett Muse confronted powerful white authorities to demand her sons be returned.