Virtual Lecture: The Other Madisons

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Join the VMHC in a virtual program with author Bettye Kearse that will discuss The Other Madisons, Bettye’s powerful book that is part personal quest, part testimony, and part historical correction about the history of her family.

For thousands of years, West African griots and griottes 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 an enslaved woman he owned: his 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.

Bettye embarked on a journey of discovery²of 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.

Bettye will be joined in conversation by filmmaker Eduardo Montes-Bradley and Christian Cotz, CEO of the First Amendment Museum in Augusta, Maine, as she speaks about the saga of an extraordinary American family told by a griotte determined to tell the whole story.

Bettye Kearse is a retired pediatric physician and geneticist. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Mental Floss, the Boston Herald, River Teeth, and Black Lives Have Always Mattered, and was listed as notable in The Best American Essays. She lives in New Mexico.

Please note:

  • Registration will cut off at 6pm (1 hour before the program)
  • One ticket per connection is required
  • Instructions to join the Zoom webinar will be sent prior to the program