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They Were Told Their Babies Had Died. Now, These Black Women Wonder: Was It a Lie?

Brenda Stewart wipes away tears Monday, May 4, 2015, in Clayton, Mo., as she recounts the story of how she was told her child had died shortly after giving birth at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis. Stewart was 16 and unmarried when she gave birth to a seemingly healthy girl on June 24, 1964, at the hospital.  A nurse took the child after birth and returned a short time later to tell Stewart that the baby had died but she now believes her baby may have been stolen and sold to adoptive parents. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Brenda Stewart wipes away tears Monday, May 4, 2015, in Clayton, Mo., as she recounts the story of how she was told her child had died shortly after giving birth at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Abby Phillip, THE WASHINGTON POST

 
ST. LOUIS (The Washington Post) — One woman and her long-lost daughter may have brought a dark chapter from St. Louis history to light.

As a 26-year-old woman in 1965, Zella Jackson Price was told that her daughter had died shortly after birth. Nearly 50 years later, though, Jackson Price learned that her daughter has been alive all along.

Melanie Diane Gilmore, also known as “Baby Diane,” is now 49 and living in Oregon. After mother and daughter reunited last month, thanks to some Facebook sleuthing by Gilmore’s children, dozens of other women have come forward with eerily similar and potentially tragic stories.

They had all given birth to children at the Homer G. Phillips Hospital, which was at one point the only hospital dedicated to serving African Americans in racially segregated St. Louis.

Like Jackson Price, who delivered her daughter prematurely, they were told by nurses at the now-closed facility that their babies had died. Nearly all of them say they never saw the newborns again and never received death certificates, according to attorney Albert Watkins, who is representing Jackson Price.

Those women — about 25 of them — reached out to the lawyer’s office after hearing the story of Jackson Price’s reunion with her daughter.

 

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