Little Known Black History Fact: The Silent Twins

June and Jennifer Gibbons were twins born to Barbadian immigrants and raised in Wales in the United Kingdom. Known infamously as the “Silent Twins,” the Gibbons sisters spoke only to one another and sometimes their younger sister in a rapid-fire style of language only they understood.

The twins were born on April 11, 1963 and were part of the only Black family in their neighborhood. From infancy, the girls kept mainly to themselves and would mirror each other’s movements. They endured racism and harassment from white children in the neighborhood, drawing them closer to each other. A brief stint in boarding school split the girls up in an attempt to normalize their speaking but it only made them more withdrawn.

In 1979, in their late teens, the girls began teaching themselves how to write short romance novels with racy themes. Although they had some success publishing them independently, their writing careers didn’t quite take off. They then engaged on a brief petty crime spree that included arson and theft. The pair was arrested and committed to a hospital for the criminally insane enduring more than 12 years of medication under inhumane conditions.  In the ’80’s, British journalist Marjorie Wallace was able to get the girls to open up to her about their confinement, which became an explosive case in local media.

Wallace, who wrote a biography about the twins in 1986, said that June once told her that one of them had to die for the other to live a normal life. According to reports, the twins were moved to a more open hospital environment in 1993 and appeared to be on a path to independent living. However, Jennifer became ill and died at age 29, reportedly of an inflamed heart. Her death remains unexplained. Wallace contends that June told her that Jennifer wanted to be a sacrifice so that June could lead a more independent life.

Jennifer Gibbons is still living today, according to the most recent information. By 2008, she was living on her own in Wales. In 2016, their sister, Greta, said in an interview that the hospital stay hastened Jennifer’s death and a family lawsuit was considered but eventually the family decided against it.

PHOTO: Fair use

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