Vernie Merze Tate was born to Charles & Myrtle K. (Lett) Tate February 6, 1905 in Blanchard, Michigan. Born on her family’s farm in rural Isabella County, as a child Merze walked nine miles to school, time which she spent memorizing poetry or historic battles. Both her maternal and paternal great grandparents were some of the first African American families that settled in the area, coming from Ohio in response to the Homestead Act of 1862. Consequently, Merze grew up with all white classmates and friends in a world that would not always treat Merze, because of her gender as well as her race, with the full respect she deserved.
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