Many people are familiar with J.P. Morgan, one of the millionaire philanthropists of the Gilded Age, but few are aware of the woman who curated his library. It’s a shame, because her story is a fascinating one that deserves to be more well-known.
Belle da Costa Greene, born Belle Greener, was one of many people in America who looked white but were considered Black due to the “one drop” rule: as long as they had even the slightest bit of Black ancestry (referred to as “one drop of blood”), they could not mingle with white society. Belle and her family decided to fight back, creating a false history for themselves that would allow them to present as white to the rest of the world.
It might have been enough for any other family to survive. For Belle, it was enough to thrive. Lapierre’s novel is the whirlwind story of one woman’s incredible life as she beat the odds to influence and control the collection of one of the most powerful financiers in America.
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