Part 3 of 5 in this series: I must warn readers that the contents of this article may be offensive to members of my own family. I believe that right is right and wrong is wrong, and no matter what other’s opinion related to this topic might be, I am only vetted by the spirit which has driven me to underscore the dignity of my mother and biological grandmother in this regard. May peace be upon them.
She was only an 8 year old little girl back then, but my Aunt Roslyn tells me that the first seed was planted within her, some 45 years ago by her mother’s baby brother, who had revealed to her that Sylvania Adele White was her sister. She says that she remembers as if it were only yesterday when her Uncle William (Billy) Johnson Jr. disclosed the shocking details to her one day on a trip to see relatives. Aunt Roxie (as she is affectionate known) tells the story like this: “Uncle Billy was a regular at my mothers house, and would often come by and pick me up to go on road trips to other relatives homes with him. I would always ask if we were going to see Adele. Uncle Billy knew she was my favorite older cousin, and marveled by my excitement to see her, he blurred out to me, ‘well you know she’s your sister don’t you?’
Aunt Roxie says she told Uncle Billy “no way, how could that be?” She says he never fully explained how my mother, who was her favorite older cousin was in fact her sister. She says she told Uncle Billy that she was going to ask her grandmother and aunt about it. She apparently did ask her family how her cousin Adele was her sister. They asked her who told you that? She says she was never allowed to go on road trips with her Uncle Billy again. Nonetheless, that little seed Uncle Billy planted in young Roslyn Christian was only the starting point of continuous probing she would do over the years throughout her life, and until this present day. She never forgot what her Uncle told her, and the physical likeness that her cousin Adele bared in relationship to her mother and herself, was so striking that Roslyn has never let the notion of Adele being her sister rest.
As young Roxie grew into her teen years her inquisitiveness would also grow. She repeatedly questioned her mother as to whether or not Adele was her sister. Roxie says that her mother would often attempt to change the subject, give off color or generic answers, and all while continuously denying that Adele was her sister. Roxie says she was so certain that Adele’s physical likeness to her mother proved that she was in fact her sister, and even became angry and frustrated one day while having a conversation with her mother about it, that she yelled at her mother “somebody is lying,’ and rain off to her bedroom. That wasn’t the last time Roxie says she confronted her mother about Adele being her sister. She recalls asking her mother who was suppose to be Adele’s mother, and when her mom said “Fats” (Dorothy Mae Jones), Roxie told her mother there is no way “Fats” was Adele’s mother. Like my Aunt Roxie, I have always believed that my mother didn’t physically resemble Dorothy Jones (my alleged grandmother) nor any of her children.
At some point my Aunt Roxie became frustrated and tired of hearing the same reply about Adele not being her sister, that she stopped having conversations about it with her mother. Roxie never let the spirit of Adele being her sis die. In fact, upon Dorothy Jones'(Roxie’s mother older sister) death and during her repass, Roxie confronted my mother for the first time asking her if she was in fact her sister. She said that she told my mother that she looked just like her mother (Lois Jean Johnson) and her, and that she looked more like her sister than her cousin. Roxie says my mother never uttered a word. She just simply looked up at her and smiled. Aunt Roxie also said that she remembered as a little girl that when she saw her cousin Adele, my mother would say to her “Roxie your my pretty little sister,” and pick her up and give her a big hug and a kiss. Unfortunately, Aunt Roxie’s mother and my mom both left this earth without ever fully addressing Roxie’s concerns related to whether Adele actually was her sister.
Eye Witness Accounts
Although Aunt Roxie went through life questioning the credibility of her mother and other family members related to the true maternity of my mother, there were obvious signs that Adele’s true identity was being hidden. For instance, interviews have been conducted with people who were there, around my mother, and the Johnson and Christian families that offered very compelling insight which bolsters Aunt Roxie’s claim that Adele was in fact her sister. Chiefly, witness accounts back up Roxie’s position that Adele’s physical likeness to her mother were not only striking, but rather it caused others to question what exactly was the extent of their relationship. One witness states that it was initially rumored that Adele was Lois Jean Johnson’s baby sister, because they looked identical. Then rumors later surfaced that my mom was her Niece, a story which has held for decades until compelling recent developments that stringently challenges what we have been told about my mother’s parentage.
These same witnesses recall the closeness of my mother and Lois Jean Johnson. Adele was known to stay the entire weekend with her on a regular basis. This is something that Adele wasn’t known to have done with any of her six aunts among the Johnson sisters. It’s simply suspicious that Adele, who looked more like Lois Jean Johnson than any of her other children, would have such a close relationship with that particular Aunt. Also, conversations that I have held with all of Dorothy Mae Jones’ (Adele’s alleged mother) surviving children, revealed that Adele was never known to stay at their home. Adele was in fact raised by her grandmother Lettie Johnson. That fact has drawn a volume of interest from younger family members over the years, and has always challenged why Adele wasn’t raised by her own mother (or the woman who reportedly was suppose to be her mother) Dorothy Jones.
Adele’s lack of physical likeness to Dorothy and her children has only recently become a prevalent issue, since the onset of images of Lois Jean Johnson emerging, and having been viewed by my siblings and I for the first time ever. The fact that we had never known Jean or her children our entire lives, perhaps is the most compelling aspect of this entire story that establishes some measure of covert secrecy having been instituted by members of our family. This apparent closely kept (70 year old) family secret began to unravel in 1969 when Roxie was told that Adele was her sister, by her mother’s baby brother. The fact that Roxie never let go of her belief that Adele could possibly be her sister is the very reason we have arrived at this juncture of our family history.
Seeking Out The Truth
Roxie’s stories about her cousin Adele were known by her siblings and her own children as she often shared her beliefs over the years. However, Jean and her children had long since lost contact with her siblings and most of her maternal side of the family. Due to circumstances not quite clear to many within the family, the Johnson sisters were notoriously bitter, and continuously at odds with each other. My argument on this point is supported by statements I obtained during a conversation I had with the oldest, and sole surviving Johnson sister Helen Brooks. My Great Aunt Helen told me that her sisters use to argue so much that it made her sick to her stomach. Helen never did expound upon the extent or the arguments or the premise for them. What is clear, is that many of the Johnson sisters went to their graves with seemingly egregious disdain and tremendous dislike for each other.
So, Aunt Roxie’s beliefs that Adele was her sister got a tremendous boost upon my mother’s passing. When her daughter Dana saw Adele’s obituary she inquired to her mother who she was. When Roxie told Dana that it was her cousin Adele she had talked about over the years, Dana said “well she looks exactly like grandma (Lois Jean Johnson),” and the ball began to roll. Dana who had already been conducting genealogy searches for her father’s family, began to launch a campaign to find her mother’s relatives as well. Dana was successful in locating one of her grandmother sister’s granddaughters, and the path to Adele’s children was obtained. On exactly October 2, 2013 when I first made contact with my cousin Dana, the entire secrecy of my mother’s true identity began to unfold.
What happened next is simply incredible. Dana nor her mother could have in a million years predicted what they discovered. What turned out to just be a quest to locate lost family by them, actually launched the discovery that my siblings and I entire maternal heritage had been a complete fraud. Later on that night when I spoke to Roxie and her daughter Dana for the very first time in my life, I discovered that they in fact were true family members. Roxie’s recollection of my mother and father were on point, and she repeatedly described the unnerving physical resemblance that my mother had of her and her mom. To drive home the point, Dana sent me photographs of her grandmother (Lois Jean Johnson). Upon my receipt of those images, the gig was pretty much up. I knew then that something was drastically wrong regarding what I had been taught about my mother’s family. The likeness was so scary, it was almost as if I had seen a ghost. Even my cousin Dana who researched her maternal genealogy in the image below, possesses an extremely unnerving likeness to my mother, and my siblings and me.
I immediately forwarded the images to my siblings who echoed my perspective that something was wrong. Upon viewing Lois Jean Johnson’ photographs, my eldest brother subsequently concluded that she was in fact our true grandmother. His position was exacerbated when God placed on my heart that I had contacted my brothers ten years prior regarding my mother’s birth certificate. I hold possession of all of my mother’s vital records, and while organizing storage one day I began to browse through some of her belongings and found her birth certificate. I noticed that it had Otis Adele White listed as her father, and Lois Jean Johnson listed as her mother. Now of course at the time I knew that my allege grandmother had a sister name Jean, but I was so overwhelmed by the shocking discovery of Dorothy Mae Johnson not appearing on her birth certificate, that my memory drew a complete blank. Hell the Johnson family name didn’t even ring a bell.
Due to my excitement and shock, I began to contact my siblings and I stated that I believe momma was adopted. I tried to explain my discovery to them, but what I was trying to convey was so over the top and bizarre to them that they quickly dismissed what I was saying. An argument ensued regarding our mother’s birth record and caused us not to speak for many years. Of course once this incident was conveyed to Roxie and Dana, serious credibility was born related to Lois Jean Johnson actually having given birth to my mother. Dana and I would then go on to engage in a volume of phone discussions as she shared with me the volume of records she had obtained pertaining to our family history. My siblings later apologized to me after realizing that compelling evidence now existed which challenged our mother’s maternity.
The Criminal Aspect Of The Family Secret
Dana’s research of the family dates back to the early/mid 1700’s, but those shocking revelations were overshadowed by the discovery that Lois Jean Johnson was only 10 years older then my mother (Adele). My own personal research of granddaddy Otis White’s birth date revealed that he was 19 years older than my mother. This discovery has since been viewed as potentially the very cause of Adele’s maternity having been concealed. We initially concluded that the social climate during the mid 1940’s was so strict that a 10 year old child having become pregnant would have caused the family to be exposed to tremendous public scrutiny, and at the time of Adele’s birth Lettie Johnson only had two daughter’s of legal child bearing age. The oldest daughter Catherine had just given birth to Veronica several months prior, therefore, Dorothy was named as Adele’s mother.
A volume of witness who were living during that era have conveyed to me that the common practice for such an unheard of situation, dictated that the pregnant minor child had to be sent away until the baby was born. The girls were normally sent to live with relatives in southern rural states where she would bring very little attention to herself. Once the child was born the child mother and the baby would be sent back home, only someone else other than the baby’s real mother would raise the child. Since my mother was actually raised by Lettie Johnson, we believe that this is exactly what occurred in Adele’s case, only the family created the falsehood that Dorothy was Adele’s mother because Jean was just a 10-11 year old child.
If this scenario played out as we believe, it is quite understandable that Adele’s identity would have been concealed due to the stringent social code of that era, but over the years when society began to place less scrutiny on child parenting, it raises serious concerns as to why Adele’s identity wasn’t disclosed in later years when her children and other family members were more mature, and could handle such a disclosure. That’s when further investigation revealed that the Johnson family may have continued to conceal the family secret under duress. Adele’s paternal grandfather Archie Sturdivant was a well known member of organized crime during the 40′ and 50’s in Baltimore. His son Otis White was reportedly a loan shark and ran some of the muscle work to collect debt from people who owed money. Some say that people living in Baltimore during the time would simply do what they were told out of fear of losing there homes or may even have been killed.
These two scenarios are the most probable rationalizations which caused our mother and maternal grandmother to not only conceal their true relationship to each other, but they literally took such a closely kept secret into their deaths. Regardless if the pressures of a stick societal code or fear of retaliation from would be gangsters is what actually caused their identities to be obscured, the fact remains that at the very minimum my maternal grandfather raped a ten year old child, which resulted in the birth of my mother Sylvania Adele White. Something extraordinary must have transpired if my calculation of the facts are accurate. If Otis Adele White is in fact my mother’s biological father as we believe, then it’s simply incredible that he could have fathered a child with a ten year old little girl, and not only maintain a relationship with the child he produced under these circumstances, but some how having his middle name given to the child. The fact that there apparently was no criminal charges ever filed against him supports my belief that some unique arrangements were possibly established related to my mother’s birth.
Rejection Of The Truth
The sudden disclosure of my mother’s true parentage has not come without controversy. Despite very compelling discovery related to this matter, there are people within our family who remain in disbelief that Adele is in fact the biological daughter of the late Lois Jean Johnson. I also believe that there are family members who know the truth and have refused to share what knowledge they have regarding this family secret. During my dialogue with many of them who I suspect of concealing pertinent facts related to my mother’s parentage, I discovered a volume of inconsistencies in much of what I was told. Notwithstanding the fact that anyone with good vision who has interacted with both Jean and Adele, couldn’t possibly ignore their physical likeness, and most certainly should have questioned whether or not Adele was Jean’s daughter. My siblings and I saw images of Lois Jean Johnson nearly 70 years after my mother’s birth for the very first time, and it was instantly clear to us that Jean was our mother’s real mom.
Others have even sought to attack me personally on social media for expressing my views regarding our family’s social history. Some may even view my Aunt Roslyn and my cousin Dana as trouble makers for stirring up such controversy within the family. That perspective couldn’t be more further from the truth. Aunt Roslyn and cousin Dana have admitted that the revelations which have derived from our establishing contact with each other, are not only shocking but were never anticipated by them. Dana grew up hearing her mom’s stories about her cousin Adele her entire life. My mother’s obituary finally revealed to Dana what her mother had been saying for years. When Dana saw the obituary for the first time, she asked her mom who it was, and when she learned that it was the infamous cousin Adele her mother had been talking abut for years, she immediately said “well mama she looks just like grandma (Lois Jean Johnson).” Not only that, but Aunt Roslyn nor Dana knew that my brothers and I had fallen out over our mother’s birth record prior to them having caught up with us, and when Jean’s other direct descendants finally met the hidden ones (my mother’s children), all of this simply came out into the open.
With that being said, it’s very strange that once Dana saw Adele’s picture for the first time, and when my brothers and I saw Jean’s picture for the first time, that we all collectively became suspicious and continuously interacted while engaging in fact finding measures until we all arrived at the conclusion, that our mother’s true identity had been concealed for some reason for nearly 70 years. Now that these extremely troubling facts have been disclosed, I will not rest until our mother’s dignity has been fully restored. One of the most disturbing details of this incredible story is attempting to simply imagine not being able to embrace a mother or a daughter to the extent of their real biological relation. My oldest brother has taken serious issue with this element of the story, and believes that our mother and biological maternal grandmother both are entitled to the dignified announcement of their true identities, even if it’s only in their deaths, and I concur with his perspective.
When I first began to experience resistance from members of my family regarding who my mom’s real mother was, I thought that I was only encountering the dysfunction which has permeated our family for decades. However, when family members are heartless enough and lack compassion by conveying to you “nobody cares,” and realizing that it’s your mother that they’re talking about, it’s a natural reaction to want to get in their behinds over it. Ironically, some of the same family members either don’t know who their true parents are, or are rumored to have been fathered by some other relative within the same family. Now is this an Indictment that I am casting on my own family? Of course not, but when you tell me as a family member that “nobody cares” who my mother’s biological mother was, it speaks volumes about the depth of our relationship, and renders you to be insignificant from that day forward.
I have come to realize over the years that my family consist of various factions. My great grandmother’s six daughters (the seventh daughter Aunt Helen can’t be included, because she was raised by my great great grandmother, Mary Scott in Charlottesville, Virginia) were completely dysfunctional. I have heard this my entire life, and has often been offered as the sole rationalization as to why my siblings and I never met many of our great aunts. Additionally, the eldest of the Johnson siblings and the sole survivor, Helen Brooks confirmed what I had been hearing my entire life regarding how they didn’t get along. Therefore, the family is broken up into factions which are predicated on who got along with who. A perfect example is how we never met Jean nor any of her children, despite the fact that she was our biological grandmother. Hell, we had never saw a picture of our real grand mother util our late 40’s and early 50’s. The woman who was suppose to be my grandmother Dorothy Mae Johnson, didn’t get along with Lois Jean Johnson, according to some of her children. I was told that “Fats'” (Dorothy) kids didn’t interact with Jeans kids, because every time they would come around their mother would always say those bitches and mother “f#*@ers. Also, there are cousins that I lived down the street from for years who had been interacting with my Aunt Roslyn and some of her sisters, and never told me who they were. Consequently, I walked passed many of my first cousins on the street and never knew who they were for years.
Due to our cousin Dana’s diligence, she was successful in contacting at least one relative of every sibling allegedly born to the late Lettie and William Johnson. Despite many of us having grown up not ever having met great aunts and other Johnson family members, we have now began to meet and learn about cousins we never met before, or only heard about their parents over the course of our lives. The dysfunction and disruption of the Johnson siblings has lasted for decades, and while other family members were impacted by such a broken heritage, I can’t help not to think that perhaps Jean Johnson was purposefully hidden from Adele’s children, with her consent. How else do you explain us not ever having seen her picture our entire lives until now? It almost seems as if the tremendous resistance to our discovery of Lois Jean Johnson’s significance to the Adams boys was never suppose to have occurred. I am very troubled by the fact that the very same petty bitterness, ignorance, and dysfunction which has prohibited our family from bonding, is continuing to occur until this present day by descendants of some of the very people who went to their graves with animosity toward their own siblings. The truth has been revealed now, and even the stringent toxicity of our family dysfunction can’t change the facts.
The Fall Out From Family Fraud
There are those people both publicly and within my family who are prepared to arrive at the basic resolve that these kinds of stories are indigenous to black families due to slavery and other social factors that have impacted black people since the onset of our nation. I wish that could look upon this entire ordeal with such broad stroke of apathy related to my lineage. The fact of the matter is that our mother left this earth not able to acknowledge her biological mother, while having to resort to calling her sister her mother. She never shared this with any of her children and the obvious reality that we will never know directly from her why she concealed her identity is unacceptable. you would think that the so called family members who know the truth and say that they love us, would break their silence and tell us what they know. The fact that they either fail or refuse to do so, in my mind, has changed the course of our family for ever.
Moreover, this “family secret” and it’s fraudulence has come at a price to my siblings and I. I could accept this discovery better if Jean only had one or two children, but she had 9 children other than my mother. Of the nine kids there were six girls and three boys. Our Aunts Barbara, Linda, Deborah, Myra, and uncles Tyrone, Jippy, and Pooh have already gone on to be with the lord. Only aunt Roslyn and Rosetta remain. We will never have the privilege of knowing our mother’s other siblings. It’s disturbing and anyone in our family who can not empathize with us having realized that our entire maternal heritage has been nothing but a complete fraud, is not family, and quite frankly can just go straight to hell.
The enormity of having 26 first cousins that we had never met is actually still settling in. Last year I met many of the Scott/Johnson 5th and 6th generation descendants during the Thanksgiving Holiday. I was amazed at the level of social accord without the typical arguing, drinking, and drug usage usually displayed by my maternal side of our family. While I’m simply utilizing my literary prowess to further expose our family secret to resurrect my mother and biological grandmother’s dignity, there will be those who will emerge once again criticizing my posture. Those efforts like the last will also fall, because at the end of the day, the fraudulence of telling Adele’s kids that Dorothy Mae Jones (God rest her soul) was Adele’s mother, severs our direct bloodline to the family. I will fight tooth and nail until death to eradicate such an untruth from existence. Jean Lois Johnson is Adele’s direct link to the Scott/Johnson family and this must be known by Adele’s children, their descendants, and onward. We can only thank God for finally bringing us out of the darkness and into the light.
To Be Continued –
The People’s Champion
I’m David Adams