Olivia Cousins can trace her family in the United States to a soldier who joined the rebelling colonists when he was just 17. But when a friend suggested she join the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization whose members can prove they are related to someone who aided the rebels in 1776, Dr. Cousins nearly laughed.

Dr. Cousins is black. And the D.A.R., as it is commonly called, is a historically white organization with a record of excluding blacks so ugly that Eleanor Roosevelt renounced her membership in protest.

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