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Imagine finding out that you had family across the country that was passing for white. How would you react? Jacque Reid goes Inside Her Story with comedian and writer Robin Cloud.

Growing up Cloud heard stories about family members who moved away, had 7 kids, and passed for white.

Willa Mae and her husband Johnny moved to Nebraska and passed as white in the 1940s. According to family stories, Johnny was an engineer who couldn’t find a Job because no one wanted to hire a Black engineer. Sp, they decided to identify as white and move to Nebraska.

They raised their kids as white and even when one of their daughters had a “completely brown skin” child, Willa Mae told them that they were “Sicilian.” Cloud says even on her deathbed Willa Mae refused to admit that she was Black.

When she was looking for them, she says some family members felt like they left the family and there was no reason to find them. But, cloud says she just kept wondering, “what if they’re looking for us?”.

One of her cousins, Becky Jo, was looking for relatives but never expected to find out that she’s actually Black.

She turned this story into a documentary called Passing: A Family in Black & White and you can see the whole thing here


Inside Her Story: Passing For White  was originally published on