James Brown's Daughters Open Up About Forgiving Him for His Abusive Relationship With Their Mother

Deanna Brown Thomas and Yamma Brown saw their late father beat Deidre Jenkins when they were young.

Man in blue suit performs with microphone. Identity undisclosed due to guidelines
Tim Mosenfelder via Getty Images
Man in blue suit performs with microphone. Identity undisclosed due to guidelines

James Brown's daughters, Deanna Brown Thomas and Yamma Brown. have opened up about how they were able to find forgiveness for their father after they saw him beat their mother, Deidre Jenkins, when they were young.

In an interview with People, the siblings explained just how much it hurt them seeing their father be violent towards their mother. "When you see a family member being hurt, you're not feeling the best about the person that's hurting them," said Yamma, now 51. "I was flat-out upset, mad with my dad at that moment. I still go back to that place every now and then, not to belittle my dad, but flashing back over my own life and the domestic violence situation in my life, thinking how much of that shaped me."

During one incident, which she said was the last time she ever saw him hit Deidre, Yamma was just six years old and intervened. "It is an unfortunate time in anybody's situation, anybody's life. If they've ever had to go through domestic violence, they know what that's like," she added. "And it shows that he was human because he was flawed, but it also is a time to show grace. ... That's how I think about it, in order to move on from that space, you do have to talk about it, you do have to acknowledge that it happened."

Deanna, now 55, said that her father was never violent with them. "There was a time when I didn't like my father. I didn't like him because of this type of behavior. I saw a lot growing up. I heard a lot growing up that could have damaged me for a lifetime," she said. "He never had any type of rage towards us because we were his children. That was a situation between a husband and a wife. There's different type of love, different type of circumstances."

Brown married three times, first to Velma Warren in 1953. He shared one son with her, but they separated just over a decade later and finalized the divorce by 1969. He married Deidree Jenkins in 1970, with whom he had two daughters. They separated in 1974 and his daughters accused him of domestic abuse against their mother. He later married Adrienne Lois Rodriguez in 1984 and she filed for divorce in 1988 due to his alleged abusive behavior. They remained married until she died in 1996, but he was arrested on charges of assault on at least four occasions between 1987 and 1995.

"My dad did apologize to my mom," said Yamma. "Not to say that that was something that just erased everything, but also knowing that he had compassion in his heart and my mom was receptive to that."

In an interview with CNN in 1988, Brown famously dodged Sonya Friedman's questions regarding one particular arrest when he was accused of beating Rodriguez with an iron pipe and shooting at her car. Instead of answering a lot of the questions, he responded by singing and denying all of the charges against him. "There's nothing wrong," he said when Friedman persisted with the questions.

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In a promo for his single "Jealousy," Offset recreated the famous interview with some assistance from Jamie Lee Curtis. Instead of tackling the topic of abuse, however, it was his alleged infidelity with his estranged wife Cardi B.

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