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The Fultz Quadruplets were the first identical Black quad babies born in the United States. The Fultz girls became baby celebrities, while Fred Klenner, the white doctor who delivered them into the world, exploited them for fame and money.

The Fultz Quads – Mary Louise, Mary Ann, Mary Alice, and Mary Catherine – were born on May 3, 1946 at Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville, N.C. The Quads’ parents, sharecropper Pete and deaf-mute mother Annie Mae, lived on a farm with their six other children but were too poor to care for the babies. Multiple births were rare at the time and the equipment to care for underweight babies wasn’t as prevalent as it is in modern times.

The girls were delivered in what was known as “the Basement,” according to a 2002 report by journalist and educator Lorraine Ahearn. This “basement” was the Blacks-only wing of Annie Penn, and Klenner and Black nurse Margaret Ware helped Annie Mae give birth. Since the Fultz family couldn’t read or write, Dr. Klenner  named the girls after his own family members.

When news of the quads began to spread nationwide, curious onlookers and media began sniffing around for photo opportunities. At the time, baby formula companies such as Gerber and PET wanted to use the quads as a means to start an ad campaign to sell their wares in the Black community. Black families didn’t buy formula during the late ’40’s, as many mothers opted to breast feed because of the high cost of baby formula.

Klenner struck a deal with PET for an undisclosed amount and the Fultz Quads were well on their way to becoming stars.  The quads’ starred in ads in Ebony Magazine, and they even made the cover of the publication. But all of this notoriety came with a price as Klenner used the girls for his “Vitamin C therapy” that he claimed made the girls healthy along with the PET evaporated milk formula.

While Klenner reaped the financial benefits, PET Milk company gave the Fultz quads a farm, a nurse, food, and medical care. Even more shocking, when Klenner returned the girls home, he displayed them in a glass-enclosed nursery. In a follow up story reported by Ebony, the then 22-year-old sisters were ultimately adopted by the nurse PET assigned to them and her husband. They struggled with adulthood. The farm they were given was on difficult land, and Pet paid the quads just $350 a month, leaving them virtually broke.

The girls became the third set of quadruplets in America to survive until adulthood. But according to Ahearn’s story, three of the sisters died of breast cancer before age 55, with Catherine Fultz Griffin believed to be the last surviving Fultz quadruplet.

(Photo: JFK Library, Public Domain)

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51 thoughts on “LIttle Known Black History Fact: The Fultz Quadruplets

  1. Lyndia Black on said:

    The majority of slaves were owned by WHITES. You speak about that but did you know there were some Jews, that turned other Jews in? Read Stella, and what she did during WW2. Did you know other Indians, helped whites, then the whites turned on them. Did any of you know that?

  2. Sharnthaword on said:

    The Fultz sisters were my cousins and they very sweet ladies. I’m grateful to have had the pleasure of meeting them and getting to know them in their later years. The history of it all have always disturbed me.

  3. if people as you state are so obsessed with the Black person- I see it differently- the Black is obsessed with the White- I don’t see Black leadership helping their fellow Black in America or Africa- they only spend their time criticizing and blaming the White man for everything- while their own Black people are dying of hunger in Africa and dying in the streets of Chicago

  4. 1outstandingjewel on said:

    … for those that don’t know
    Obsess- To preoccupy or fill one’s mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent.

  5. Alice Ray on said:

    I knew the quadruplets when they were students at Bethune-Cookman College (BCU) and conversed with Catherine several times about two years ago. I was saddened to learn of her sisters’ demise. I have no means of communicating with her at this time.

  6. It’s sad that 3 of these lovely ladies died of breast cancer. “The China Study” by Dr. Colin Campbell from Cornell University suggests that casein, the protein found in milk, is suspect in causing breast cancer. Dr. Campbell has actually turned cancer cells on and off in laboratory mice by the amount of casein in their diets. Whether it was financial difficulties that lead the black community to choose to breast fed back in the day or not they were actually protecting their children from exposure to cow’s milk. Milk with a composition for baby calves and should only be fed to cows as its intended use. The event of their birth put them in a position to receive less than the best and as a result may have put them a risk. I wonder if any of the other children in this family have a history of cancer? It would be interesting to know…..

  7. ohsnap on said:

    Clarification: Tyra Banks DID NOT graduate from Harvard. She took a 9 week certificate course. Yes it was Harvard but the implication is she received a degree. She did not.

  8. Barry on said:

    I just want respond to the white bigot about black people being a mess. White people being lying since the beginning of time. They think they know more then anyone. They keep lying to keep the truth from coming out. They kill, they stole to keep there life style. I don’t hate them, just there nasty evil ways.

    • Denise- I am a White person married to a Black and worked in the Hood – I don’t watch TV to figure it out – I live it- and I have also the background of having lived in Africa where the journey first started for the African American- and the African chiefs would sell their own into slavery for guns and alcohol from the Whites- and today in the Hood your people are given the OK to kill their own- but get hysterical if a White cop tries to stop this senseless killing- this all does not make no sense

  9. Denise on said:

    Just because a person has been to Africa and just because you see the negative on television does not make you an expert on the Black experience. Check your own background before you make comments you know nothing about.

  10. if it wasn’t for the White doctor – no quads- tired of your racism toward White people- enough already- get a life- and help your brothers and sisters who are killed everyday by their own- they lie dead on the streets of Chicago – on the West Side- and don’t call me a bigot- because yes I am White but I have lived in Africa many years and know more about Africa and its diaspora than you do- and please get it straight- the African American is a mess

  11. Torrence Cummings on said:

    What the doctor did did to those beautiful young ladies is awful, disgusting. And he got away with it. the Doctor could have been blue, what kind of character does people have. I have learned not to trust so easily, TNT, I know my history, and you have your opinion. You know you must have looked up the history on black people owning slaves to give yourself and you ancestors a boost. any kind of slavery is wrong and disgusting, But is doesn’t compare to the FACT THAT BLACK PEOPLE WERE SLAVES AT A GREATER NUMBER FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS!!! I AM SO SICK AND TIRED OF CRUELTY, THE MURDERS OF ANYBODY!!!. LET PROMOTE LOVE!!!

    • Blacks enslaved other blacks. Whites would have had a hard time getting their hands on blacks slaves if BLACK Africans had not been capturing, enslaving and selling other blacks to whites. By the way? There have been slaves of every race including whites. My family did own slaves. My family also left their slaves a massive plantation in Virginia. The slaves ancestors own and work that plantation to this day! But poor poor black slaves had it so bad.

  12. Hazel on said:

    For years Hollywood and the media painted a negative picture of Black people and we had no other option but to deal with ridicule and hate from every race of people believing that we are all ignorant, on welfare, uneducated, criminals, etc.; God knows all the other negative stereotypes we have had to endure. Now that videos via cell phones are available to all to post to media for all to see, we see a VIEW of all people bad behaviors and not just black people. We now see our white sisters and brothers getting upset because the media keeps making all white people look bad. They didn’t have a problem with it when the media only made Blacks look bad; they said we were just complainers. It’s been said before: if you allow something to exist, it will eventually spread to everyone. Sad how people allow other people’s narrow views dictate their entire belief system. Skin color has nothing to do with behavior

  13. bawtonyapendleton on said:

    Editor’s Note: Several commenters questioned the use of race in the story. The author simply wrote about the reality of the times. The Fultz family was a Southern family with very little education and money who were subject to exploitation due to their poverty and race.

  14. Cecil on said:

    Stop saying “white” and “black.” These are racial terms and just add division to our society. We don’t need any more of that. This article is just incites more anger against Caucasians and some of the comments are insulting to African-Americans. The quads are beautiful women.

  15. Marie Jackson on said:

    Exploited indeed! As babies they were fed PET Evaporated Milk instead of natural breast milk. Three of the sisters died of breast cancer before age 55. Interesting medical observation -or coincidence?

    • stars1 on said:

      It made me wonder if they carried the BRAC gene, like Angelina Jolie etc. Maybe the surviving sister and any daughters the quads had should be tested.

  16. Rose Wood on said:

    I’m starting to believe more and more everyday that Caucasians (cave people) are children of the beast. Everything about them is unnatural even their lack of emotion and cruel treatment towards the first people God put on this planet.

      • WHO CARES IF THEY’RE BLACK!!!??? seriously? you cry for equality, but always want people to see the color first. WHO CARES!! i’m beginning to think the media creates this. they should actually make it illegal for the media to state the race…watch attitudes change, because if everyone is equal their race isn’t important.

    • Hey! Not fair! Not all white people are like that quack of a doctor. I’m white and I look at people as people no matter what color of skin they have. We are all the same color on the inside (I know this for a fact). I’ve had some wonderful black friends and a more than wonderful black lover.

  17. What I didn’t like about this story was adding the race factor. Of course they must have been exploited simply because they were black and the doctor was white. The exact same thing happened to the Dionne quintuplets who were white, born in Canada you would never see an article reading “white quintuplets exploited by the white doctor that delivered them.” Why is it necessary to distinguish?

  18. Shameful! Although I know it happened and still happens with frequent regularity it is still wrong on every level. The evil among us will always seek to take advantage of and mercilessly use the less fortunate of humanity.

  19. Kathleen Teague on said:

    This story sounds very similar to the exploitation of the Dionne quintuplets in Canada in the 1930’s. Very sad.

  20. the “white” doctor who delivered them into the world, exploited them for fame and money. Because I am so sure a black doctor would have never done that to them. Another little known black history fact is that in the USA blacks owned slaves, as a matter of fact black slave owners usually owned more slaves than whites per family. Another fact? The very first LEGAL slave owner in the USA was a black man,. He took it to court and won his right to keep his black indentured slave for forever.

    • And what is the point of this idioic rant does it change the fact that the doctor used them, and where did you get those facts from the the kkk history database ?

    • Ms Curly on said:

      Thanks for the history lesson. We all know how this country was built and who did most of the building. I hope these girls had some type of happiness when they were growing up. This is a very sad story.

    • Lewis Freeman was a black man who owned slaves. You know why ? let me tell you why. In order to have his own family in his life, he had to purchase them, from a WHITE man. So yes, there were black slaves owners and we call them LOVE.

      • http :// www. theroot.com/articles/history/2013/03/black_slave_owners_did_they_exist. html Blacks did not just own Slaves out of love. The first slave owner was a black man named Anthony Johnson, he did not do it out of love. He fought in court to keep his indentured slave. Thus becoming the first legal slave owner in the USA. There are many articles on black slave owners. I think it’s truly ridiculous blacks don’t even know their own true history. It kind of makes you all pathetic really

  21. Knowing that there was white slaves in America, I am not going to say the cliche but I will say the rich and elite will use the poor and dark skin people for gains. No matter the outcome of the victim/s they claim

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