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The Other Madisons: The Lost History of A President's Black Family

Guest Bettye Kearse (Author)

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Guest Bettye Kearse (Author)



Synopsis: For thousands of years, West African griots (men) and griottes (women) have recited the stories of their people. Without this tradition Bettye Kearse would not have known that she is a descendant of President James Madison and his slave, and half-sister, Coreen. In 1990, Bettye became the eighth-generation griotte for her family. Their credo—“Always remember—you’re a Madison. You come from African slaves and a president”—was intended to be a source of pride, but for her, it echoed with abuses of slavery, including rape and incest. 

Confronting those abuses, Bettye embarked on a journey of discovery—of her ancestors, the nation, and herself. She learned that wherever African slaves walked, recorded history silenced their voices and buried their footsteps: beside a slave-holding fortress in Ghana; below a federal building in New York City; and under a brick walkway at James Madison’s Virginia plantation. And when Bettye tried to confirm the information her ancestors had passed down, she encountered obstacles at every turn. But she learned that America's slaves possessed remarkable inner strength and a sense of hope, by which they survived, and many talents, by which they contributed mightily to the nation and the world. This message is the cornerstone to what Bettye brings to her family's oral tradition.

Part personal quest, part testimony, part historical correction, The Other Madisons is the saga of an extraordinary American family told by a griotte determined to tell the whole story.


Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on March 24, 2020

ISBN:  978-1328604392


I am interested in an AALBC review.


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