Jay Brooke was born on 27 August 1995, the illegitimate son of a poor black woman named Camilla from the West End neighborhood of Clifton. A few years after his birth, his mother died of a drug overdose, and so Jay was raised by his grandmother, Eudora Brooke, a member of the Parish of St. Martin de Porres. It was his grandmother who gave Jay a decent start in life.
Jay grew up as a healthy boy, and under the influence of his grandmother he did well in school. Unlike some of his cousins, such as Clarence Brooke and Leon Luttrell, he did not become involved with drugs, nor did he become involved with gangs. Because of this, his grandmother never had to complain to Father Todd, the new priest at St. Martin de Porres, about this grandson, as she did about hsi cousins, who were eventually sent to Brandon’s Boys group home. From the time he was able to do so, Jay worked. As a child, he worked around his grandparents’ home, and followed his grandfather to work where he helped out on occasion. His grandfather, Carver Brooke, worked for a maintenance company, being sent from one place to another to mop, clean, and repair. But in March of 2009 Jay’s grandfather died as a result of being caught in the crossfire between two gangs there in the neighborhood. Jay was only 13 at the time, but he found ways of getting work to help his grandmother try to keep the family together, despite irresponsible actions by many of his uncles and aunts and cousins.
Jay graduated from Western High School, one of the worst in the county as far as both discipline and academic standards were concerned. All through high school, he was working the equivalent of a full-time job, helping his grandmother and putting some aside with the goal of entering the University. Jay was fascinated with American history, and also with the prospect of helping others in the kinds of situations in which his grandmother lived. Hence, he decided to enter the University, if possible, and major in history as a preliminary to law school. Because of his heavy work commitments, he did not join any athletic team in high school, but he focused on several classes and activities which were related to his goals. Thus, he came to the attention of Dr. Norman Peters, the pre-law advisor in the Department of History at the University, because of his outstanding performance on some standardized tests indicating an interest in law. As a result, when he graduated from high school, Jay obtained a scholarship, which would enable him to attend the University and major in history with the goal of attending law school. He was one of a distinct minority of graduates from his school going on to college, and an even smaller minority with scholarships.
Jay obtained student loans, which supplemented his scholarship and his work, and entered the University as a history/pre-law major in the fall of 2013. Western High did not offer Advanced Placement classes, but Jay’s performance on some national standardized tests suggested to Dr. Peters that he could probably skip the American History survey. During the advisement period in 2013, Jay took a lengthy examination which validated this assessment, but he did have to take the freshman World Civ survey. Jay completely fulfilled the expectations of him, and carried a 4.0 g.p.a. during his freshman year. He worked full time during the summer, but was eager to resume his education when the school year geared up again in August, 2014. He actually began his sophomore year a few days prior to his nineteenth birthday.
By this time, Jay was not only a hard worker and a good student, but was also a good looking young man. He stood at five foot eleven, and weighed in at 160 pounds. He had avoided such disfigurements as tattoos, although he did have a scar on his left temple, the consequence of being attacked by some bullies in the sixth grade. He attempted a mustache at age 16, but decided against keeping it. Although he was on no athletic team, he was well developed from his work from an early age. Jay had black hair which was tightly curled, and black eyes. He had a straight nose and moderately sized lips. His ears lay flat against his head, not sticking out. He was well-muscled, with strong arms and legs, a developed chest, and a flat stomach. As a result, despite his constant work and lack of money, he was able to enjoy the company of the female of the species on occasion. Jay lost his virginity at age 16, and had several casual girlfriends, but none of lasting significance. His heavy work schedule discouraged the girls from continuing the relationship, although none were known to complain about his attentions while on a date.
Elizabeth Caroline Prentice was born on 23 June 1996, the daughter of the late Braxton Crittenden Prentice and Sarah Anne Greene. Her father’s unusual name was a result of her grandfather’s fascination with the Civil War, as Braxton Bragg was a Confederate general at the Battle of Perryville, and George Crittenden was the Confederate commander at Mill Springs. A relationship was claimed to General Crittenden. Brax was born on 3 May 1970. Beth’s mother, Sarah, belonged to the Catholic Greene family, and so it was what was called a ‘mixed’ marriage, as Brax never converted to Catholicism. The family was well off, living in the exclusive Balaclava enclave from the 1950s on. Beth was the only child of her parents, as her mother suffered a complication at her birth which prevented any further pregnancies. Brax was a member of the law firm of Grice, Prentice, and Billingsly, and did quite well in his profession. He was a loving husband and father, and so Beth grew up in a positive atmosphere, with both parents and more than a sufficiency of the material things of this world. As a compromise between her parents, although she was baptized and raised Catholic, and accompanied her mother to church at St. Polycarp, she attended Clifton Prep all through school. Sarah Prentice, born 7 September 1973, was a niece of the lawyer Donald Patrick Greene, Sr. She was quite socially conscious, having no employment outside the family, but being involved in a multitude of organizations, including the Martha Washington Chapter of the DAR. She was the consummate hostess at dinners and receptions, and was a very attractive, well-turned-out woman. Unfortunately, she had absorbed some racist and snobbish attitudes, but they were fairly superficial, not embedded in her personality. To the great distress of mother and daughter, Brax died as a result of a hunting accident on 7 November 2010, when he was mortally wounded by a fellow hunter.
A major influence in the life of the Prentice family was Brax’s father, Harding Forrest Prentice, who went by his middle name, and who claimed some kinship with Nathan Bedford Forrest, although that was never documented. Forrest was obsessed with the Civil War, and with the Confederacy. In consequence, he was also quite racially biased. He was one of those who regularly protested when the black community demanded that Nathan Bedford Forrest Elementary School change its name, although he would never consider sending a member of the family to that school in a definitely lower class neighborhood. Forrest had done well as a corporate lawyer, also in the Grice, Prentice, and Billingsly firm. He had been married to the late Elizabeth Crittenden, a mild woman who was a loving mother and grandmother, and an adequate hostess, but who never expressed an opinion contrary to those of her husband. Most often, she expressed no opinion at all. Elizabeth died in 1998 at the age of 56 from breast cancer.
Forrest and Elizabeth had two sons, Braxton and Robert. Robert Edward Lee Prentice was the younger son, born 13 March 1973. Bob shared few of the interests or opinions of his father. While in college, he came out as gay, after which he had no contact with his father whatsoever, although his mother maintained a clandestine relationship until her death, and his brother also kept up contact. Bob was an interior decorator, and lived in a condo downtown.
Beth had done well at Clifton Prep, although her attendance at the University was not contingent on a scholarship. Her family expected to pay the full tuition, and even contribute to the endowment, in return for good publicity. The only recognition Beth even applied for is the award presented to the outstanding essay on American history by the Martha Washington Chapter of the DAR, which she received in her junior year at Prep. She was interested in history, and was considering a career as a high school history teacher at a ‘respectable’ school like Prep. This was considered acceptable for a female by her grandfather. She entered the University in 2013 as a major in Secondary Education with a concentration in history, rather than as a history major, because her grandfather was acquainted with Dean Bennett of the School of Education, who convinced him that this was more ‘professional.’ She did quite well in her freshman classes, missing a 4.0 only because of a conflict with her PE instructor and her subsequent refusal to perform one of the exercises.
Beth was, in the fall of 2014, 18 years old. She had been able to skip a grade in the elementary years as she was quite quick in school. She had taken AP American History and World History at Prep, and so began her college career with more advanced courses. Beth stood five foot, four inches in height, and weighed 112 pounds. She was blonde, with blue eyes and a very attractive face. As a result of great dental care, she had white teeth and a killer smile. She wore her hair shoulder length. In high school, she had run track, but was not a member of any team at the college level. She was also a member of a sorority, but not Gamma Nu, as she was told by some friends that there were too many ‘undesirable’ members there, meaning non-white members. Beth always was dressed in designer clothing, although she thought it nouveau riche to be ostentatious about it.
One of the required courses for history majors, and one recommended for those in Secondary Education concentrating in history or social science, was the junior level course called Historical Methods. The purpose of the course was to acquaint students with the nature of historical research, and the consequent understanding of the contingent nature of many historical judgements. The facts do not change, but new facts may be discovered which alter our understanding of an event. In addition, the assumptions one brings to the facts influences the interpretation we give them. There were several examples of this in the curriculum of the course, including such things as the way 19th century national feelings influenced the interpretation of the past by the historians of that era, or the fact that Thomas Carlyle’s assumption that women were inferior to men influenced his ‘great man’ interpretation of British history. As it happened, both Jay Brooke and Beth Prentice were signed up for Historical Methods in the fall of 2014. They had not been in the same class heretofore.
On the first day of the semester, Jay was running to get to class in time, as he had been held late at his job. The class met at 2:00 in the afternoon, which his employer thought inconvenient, but it had been agreed before the semester began that he would be allowed to meet this required class. Despite that, his employer was constantly complaining about it, and finding ways of delaying his departure from work. Jay was not in the best of moods as he neared the classroom. Standing in the corridor was Beth Prentice and two of her friends. The friends were not in that class, but were exchanging some last minute gossip with Beth. Jay came to an abrupt stop, then, somewhat crossly, said, “Excuse me, I need to get into that room.”
The three girls looked at him as though he were something slimy, and huffed as they moved aside. “One of your classmates?” one of the girls asked Beth. “Never met him,” Beth replied. “I assume he’s in some made-up concentration like Black Studies.” The girls tittered. These comments were heard by Jay, who almost turned to respond, but the instructor called the class to order. Jay did not forget that slur, and so when the instructor, Dr. Peters, went from student to student asking why they were taking the course and came to Jay, he looked directly at Beth and said, “It’s a required course in my pre-law curriculum, sir.” From that day on, the two were antagonistic towards each other. Although they had not paid attention before this incident, they were also both in Dr. Barnett’s course on American colonial history as well, and tended to clash there as well.
Early in the Historical Methods course, Jay had a problem with the requirements. Dr. Peters assigned each student the task of tracing his or her ancestry back at least five generations. He found that this kind of assignment was one which got most students personally involved in the work. After the class in which that assignment was made, Jay followed the professor to his office, and protested. He said he had no father on his birth certificate, and had never known of any family further back than his grandmother. Dr. Peters replied that he should study the materials on different methodologies, and do the best he could. The grade would be based on how well he did the assignment, not how full the genealogy. Jay still did not like it, but he would not be given any alternative assignment, so he determined to do as thorough a job as possible.
Later that day, Jay complained to his grandmother about the assignment, but told her he would be interviewing her about as much as she could tell him about the family. She gave this a good deal of thought over the next few days, and even consulted Father Todd about this. There were things in the past she did not like to think about, but eventually decided that honesty was best in the long run.
Eudora Brooke cooperated with Jay to the extent that she answered honestly the questions he put to her, but she was hesitant to volunteer any information. The easy part was talking about her parents, her late husband, and his parents. She had no hesitation about showing Jay her marriage license, her birth certificate, and the obituaries of her husband, Carver, and both her parents and her in-laws. While they were fairly typical working class people from the black neighborhoods of Clifton, there was nothing to be ashamed of in any of this. Carver Brooke and both grandfathers had worked at manually demanding jobs all their lives, and all the women worked as well. Jay’s paternal grandmother had been a washer woman, picking up, washing, ironing, and returning the laundry of more affluent families. Her husband worked for the railroad. Eudora’s father worked for a construction company doing mostly unskilled labor. His wife was a cook in a local restaurant.
Going back a generation, Jay found no documentary support for anything his grandmother told him. She could tell him some stories about her grandparents, but she never knew Carver’s grandparents. There was a local newspaper, published weekly, devoted to the black community. Jay visited the offices of the paper, and utilized the files, finding obituaries for three of the four grandparents of his grandmother. From his grandfather’s obituary, he had names, but there was no convenient way to locate obituaries, as the newspaper’s files were only partly computerized, and they seem to have missed this information. He did find out that, whereas his grandmother’s family tended to be long-lived, his grandfather’s family did not. The newspaper began computerizing its back issues beginning with the first issue in 1917, but had not arrived at the time when his grandfather’s ancestors presumably died.
Then, Jay had an idea. He went to the local branch of the public library, and checked the city directories. It had his grandmother, for sure, and a street address, and even a job listing. However, the local library did not have directories very far back. The helpful librarian told him that the central library had directories which went back as far as they were published, into the 1830s or 40s, she was not sure which. And so Jay spent some time at the central public library going through old city directories. He did not have a huge amount of spare time, so this involved many short trips. Fortunately, the assignment did not have to be turned in until the week before final exams in December. By the time the fall break arrived, Jay had traced his ancestry back before 1940, year by year, finding Brooke families more or less in the same neighborhood and with the same names. After 1940, he had the use of the federal census. He discovered as a result of this assignment that the federal censuses were made public only after the lapse of 70 years, as a matter of protection of privacy. He found his great-grandfather as a child in the family of his great-great-grandfather, which confirmed his deductions from the city directories about that connection. In this manner, he traced most of his ancestry in the straight Brooke line back to 1860. In most cases, he did not know the maiden name of the wives, and so could not follow their families, but where he could, especially with the family of his grandmother, who was a Whitson by birth, he followed all the way back. Before 1860, most of his ancestors would have been slaves, and had no family name, and so were extremely difficult to identify. Besides, that far back he had far exceeded the five generations required for the class assignment. Jay had become addicted to genealogy.
The matter of his mother and especially of his father remained. Jay knew his grandmother was uncomfortable talking about this, but he had been curious for years, and this assignment gave him some leverage in getting information from his ancestor. Eudora got out her daughter’s birth certificate, showing her as Camilla Brooke, born on 13 April 1975. She also produced report cards from elementary and high school, through the sophomore year, but sadly related that Camilla was wild and head-strong, and refused to return to school for her junior year. She left home, and was living with a boyfriend, working as a waitress in a poor restaurant. Eudora sighed deeply, but in line with her resolution to be honest with Jay, she then related that the relationship with that boyfriend did not last, and Camilla went from one partner to another. Then, in the fall of 1994, she linked up with still another boyfriend, which lasted for several months. It was this boyfriend who was the father of Jay. Eudora said she never met him, but she heard about him from neighbors and Camilla’s sister, Lucille, the mother of young Leon, who was very close with her sister. Eudora said it was at this time that both Camilla and Lucille became heavily involved in drugs, which eventually led to the death of both of them. At that, she broke down, so Jay put off further questioning for another time. As Aunt Lucille, like his mother, was also dead, he could not question her.
In was a week later, in mid-October, when Eudora agreed to talk about family again. This time, she told Jay that it was his father who supplied the drugs. He came from a much more affluent background. In fact, it was this which caused a problem. When his father’s family found out that Camilla was pregnant, there was a major blow up. The young man, who had a funny name which Eudora was not certain about, but something like Break, just disappeared. This upset Camilla greatly, which in turn was behind increased drug use. She also became quite promiscuous, whereas before it had been pretty much one lover at a time, at least most of the time. Then, when August arrived, and Camilla gave birth to Jay, the father of her one-time boyfriend appeared. He was greatly upset that Camilla had listed his son as father on the birth certificate. He shouted and threatened, but he also bribed. And so, a new birth certificate was filed with no father for Jay, and Camilla was given a present of $10,000 dollars, according to the story told by her sister Lucille.
That ‘present’ was a great disaster. Camilla went wild with her new-found wealth. For several months, she indulged in more and more powerful drugs, which she could now afford. She also shared with her sister, so Lucille also became addicted as a result. After about three months, however, the money was exhausted. Camilla had no job, and now no money, and was addicted to expensive drugs. She engaged in prostitution, but was unable to earn enough to buy her designer drugs on a regular basis. Therefore, one morning Camilla simply took all the drugs she had remaining at once, and died of the overdose. That was 19 February 1996.
By the time Eudora related all this, both she and Jay were in tears, and so again a recess was called in the genealogical researches. Jay, however, was recording his grandmother’s stories, and writing it up for his class assignment. He wanted Dr. Peters to know how much this cost him and his grandmother.
When Jay and his grandmother got together again, she told him she had only one more bit of family history to tell him. She said his father was a white man. She then produced the original birth certificate, the one which had upset his paternal grandfather so much. On it, Jay was listed as Joshua Prentice Brooke, and his father was listed as Braxton Crittenden Prentice.
This revelation left Jay completely dumfounded. He knew, of course, that he was lighter skinned than his grandmother, but it never occurred to him that he was half-white. He did not immediately recognize the name Braxton Prentice, but he knew the Prentices were a prominent Clifton family, and some of them had a reputation as being anti-black, which fit the story about his grandfather paying to cover up his paternity. Jay did nothing for over a week, and just let all this sink in. But he had his class assignment to complete. And so, in November he began to dig into the identity of possible fathers.
Utilizing his previous experiences, he began with city directories. He found quite a few Prentice families, but none with someone named Braxton as head of household. He then went to the archives of the Herald-Courier, and searched for obituaries of people named Prentice. Again, he found several, but he did locate the obituary of Braxton Crittenden Prentice. He died on 7 November 2010 as a result of a hunting accident, but Jay could not feel very sorry for him, even though he was only forty years old. He found that Braxton was a son of Harding Forrest Prentice, who was known by reputation in the black community as one of the leading racists in town. That man was still alive. However, his wife, Elizabeth, née Crittenden, had died. Jay also found her obituary. But the really surprising thing was that survivors of Braxton not only included a wife named Sarah, née Greene, but also a daughter named Elizabeth, who, Jay was fairly sure, was his bete noir in two of his history classes.
Putting aside this personal consideration, Jay spent his spare time during the Thanksgiving break researching his ancestors among the Prentice and Crittenden families. That was a lot easier than his maternal ancestry, as these were prominent families. There were even a couple of books on those families, and articles in the Madison County Historical Journal. He found a real connection to the Confederate general, George Crittenden, and thus to the Governor of Kentucky, John J. Crittenden, his father, but there was no documented connection to Nathan Bedford Forrest which appeared, to Jay’s relief, nor to Braxton Bragg. After all, George Crittenden had a brother who was Union general.
With all this data, Jay wrote a lengthy paper on his ancestors carefully relating the various methods used to obtain each piece of information, and including as appendices a series of birth certificates, obituaries, and newspaper articles, as well as an extensive bibliography. He felt triumphant, and vindicated, when he handed in his paper on the last Monday of class.
Dr. Peters made it a priority to grade Jay’s paper early, because of the problems Jay had mentioned at the beginning of the semester. He was greatly impressed at the variety of methods used, and the thoroughness of the research. Jay went well beyond the minimum of five generations, and obviously underwent some wrenching personal experiences in the process of assembling this paper. On Wednesday, he asked Jay to remain after class. Back in his office, Dr. Peters informed Jay that he was greatly impressed, and assigned him an A+ for the paper. He also acknowledged the personal sacrifices Jay and his grandmother made to carry out his assignment, and apologized for that. Jay accepted the grade and the apology, and said he was now glad that he knew all that, even though it was not a happy story. Jay also did very well on the exams, and got another A for the course.
Beth did not have any of the surprising or emotional revelations from her researches which Jay experienced. Her family was pretty prominent, and had been for generations, and so she had access to many records which made the assignments easy for her. She assembled birth, death, and marriage records on all her ancestors back to the requisite five generations, but then went further with the Prentice and Greene families. She related that her Prentice ancestors came to Clifton from New England in the 1830s, and were descended from a long line of Puritans. The ancestor who came to Clifton was George Prentice (1802-1870), a native of Connecticut and a graduate of Brown University, as well as a rabid supporter of the Know-Nothings during the 1850s. This was disturbing to Beth, as she was Catholic through her mother, even though they were not strongly identified with the Catholic community of Clifton.
Beth also discovered that her mother’s family, the Greenes, were among the Catholic families which migrated from Maryland to central Kentucky in the 1780s. From there, she was able to trace the family to Thomas Greene, who was born in 1609 at Bobbing in Kent, and who migrated to Maryland with the original settlers in 1634, and who was designated as the successor to Governor Leonard Calvert in 1647, but was prevented from assuming office. But the Greene family of St. Mary’s County remained a prominent Catholic family throughout the colonial period and beyond. This ancestry suited Beth more than the Prentice ancestry of her father.
As part of her researches, Beth decided she needed to interview her Uncle Bob, her father’s brother. After all, he would know things that her mother would not, and her mother was not very forthcoming anyway. Besides, interviews was one of the method recommended in the course. Sarah seemed to want only a fulsome praise of her late husband. That did not seem realistic, even to Beth, who was quite fond of the memory of her father. Uncle Bob did praise his late brother for the degree of acceptance he obtained when he came out as gay, especially as compared with the complete cut off from their father. He told a few stories from their childhood, but also, somewhat hesitantly, admitted that Brax was not cut out for a monogamous life. He refused to elaborate on that, but told Beth to be satisfied to know that her father was also human.
With all this, Beth wrote up her paper and turned it in on the same Monday as did Jay Brooke. It was a good paper, and earned a mark of A, but there was nothing about it which moved Dr. Peters to call her in to discuss it. And so, moved by typical undergraduate impatience, on Thursday, the day after the last class of the semester, she went by Dr. Peters’ office to ask about her grade. As she approached from one direction, she saw him leaving in another, but his office door was open, so presumably he would return before long. So, Beth went in and tried to make herself comfortable as she waited for him. She noticed the stack of papers on his desk, and recognized it as the pile of papers from the Historical Methods class. Approaching, she picked up the paper on top of the stack, which was in a folder the same color as the one she used. But it was not her paper. It was that of Jay Brooke. She was about to return it to the stack when her eye was caught by the genealogical chart as the first page of the paper. Each student not only wrote up a narrative, but, to help Dr. Peters follow the account, included a five generation genealogical chart, which was the first page in each folder. Beth saw that Jay’s chart listed Braxton Crittenden Prentice as his father. This greatly interested and, initially at least, angered Beth. She though that her fellow student, who she thought of as that uppity black guy, was making fun of her. And so, she slipped his folder into her book bag, and left without waiting for Dr. Peters’ return.
Beth went home, and surreptitiously read Jay’s paper in the privacy of her room. She just knew without having to think about it that her mother would not approve. Her initial anger and suspicion was gradually eroded. The account of the ancestry of Braxton Crittenden Prentice was accurate, although not as complete as the one she put together, but it was done without the access to all the family papers she used. Beth read over the account of Jay’s maternal ancestry, but was initially turned off by the story of poor, working class people, promiscuity, and drugs. But she was spellbound by the account of the relationship between Braxton Prentice and Camilla Brooke. She read the account carefully, looking for obvious falsifications, but did not find any. She did note that Jay’s claim was based on one of two birth certificates and the account given by his grandmother and his aunt. It was not air tight, but Jay admitted that in his narrative. He said he simply went with his grandmother’s account as he could think of no reason she might have to fabricate this story, which was documented only by the earlier birth certificate. He was not very proud of the association with a family of bigots. Beth studied the two birth certificates. The one which recognized her father as also the father of Jay was issued right after Jay’s birth, whereas the one with the father’s line left blank was issued several weeks later, and designated as an ‘amended’ certificate. That fit the story. Besides, Beth knew the account of her grandfather’s role in all this was completely in keeping with what she knew of him. He would hate a connection with a black grandson, and he had no qualms about using his wealth to get what he wanted. Beth also noted that the account of paying off Camilla came just as the upcoming wedding of Braxton to Sarah Greene was announced. Although intrigued, Beth was also offended by seeing her family designated as one of bigots. Beth carefully returned Jay’s paper to Dr. Peters’ office without being caught, but only after making a copy for herself.
It would do no good to ask her grandfather. Beth knew he would deny everything, whether it was true or not. She hinted to her mother about a story about her father having an affaire before their marriage, but Sarah said she preferred to draw a discrete curtain over any ‘youthful indiscretions’ of her husband before their wedding. It was all irrelevant, she said. And so, Beth went back to her Uncle Bob. She showed Bob Prentice the account of Brax and Camilla, and asked him about that. Uncle Bob told her that by late 1994 and 1995, when these events took place, he was already cut off from the family by his coming out as gay, so he was not in on all that transpired. However, he said he knew that his brother had more than one affaire with a black woman, and just about the time his engagement to Sarah was announced, he told Bob that he would be cut off just as completely if all his catting around became public. He also mentioned their father ‘paying off’ a girl to keep some of his activities quiet. But he had nothing specific about a woman named Camilla Brooke nor about a son named Jay or Joshua. And so, Beth went through most of the Christmas holidays with her curiosity unsatisfied, and thought about what, if anything, she should do about what she knew. One aspect of this which she also found intriguing is that Jay had said nothing to her about all this. Her first reaction, seeing his claims as in some way attacking her or making fun of her, or even providing grounds for making some kind of claims on the Prentice family, did not seem to be true. So, she remained uncertain. Imperceptibly, however, she found herself thinking better of Jay as time passed.