A book promising to become a best-seller traces the true story of two black albino brothers who were born in the late XIX century in the cotton fields of Virginia, U.S. As small children, they were kidnapped and exploited by circus people for many years.
But their destiny is amazing…
Born to an extremely poor family, George and Willie Muse, went hungry all the time, despite their mother’s best efforts. So it was not hard for a white man in a carriage to offer them sweets, and take the opportunity to whisk them away.
By 1899, the boys had already caught the attention of one of the 100 circus companies roaming the U.S. at the time, because of their light skin, golden hair and bluish eyes, even though they had their African-American features.
When their mother Harriet saw George and Willie did not come home by sunset, her worst fears arose. She vowed to never stop looking for sons, and embarked upon a long journey to find them, no matter how much time could pass.
She knew it was common for bounty hunters to look for strange-looking people to be sold into circuses, where living conditions were normally quite terrible, and slave-like.
In fact, their kidnapper, Robert Stokes, sold them to the manager of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Combined Circus, known as “The Greatest Show on Earth”, Candy Shelton, who for many years exploited the Muse brothers, especially when they started to excel as musicians.
Harriet always carried the suspicion her sons were with a circus, and her friends and family alerted her whenever one of these shows was installed nearby. But years went by before she got lucky at last.
The boys in fact lived a life of slavery. They did not know how to read or write, and their eyesight were hindered by their albino condition.
They went on to work in London, where they became very famous, although –unknown to their fans- still under a Shelton’s exploitation. They were known as The Sheep-Headed Cannibals and Ambassadors From Mars, in extravaganzas staged by Bertram Mills at London’s Olympia. Even George V and Winston Churchill were fans of the Muse brothers.
By 1927, Harriet was alerted the circus was going to shown near her home in Roanoake. She had remarried and had three other children. She boldly went to the function and claimed the albino brothers were her sons. The scandal broke out that night in such a way that the circus managers had to let them go.
They agreed to go with their mother, but the dire conditions in which she lived in made them rethink their decision and went back to work at the circus. Yet this time it was under their own terms, no more slavery.
The brothers went on to continue a circus career until they retired, having managed to gather quite a strong amount of money by themselves, although always with the help and care of their mother.
One of them died in 1972, but the other brother, Willie, lived an impressively long life, dying at the age of 108 in 2001.