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“Always remember—you’re a Madison. You come from African slaves and a president”


This was Betty Kearse’s family motto; a way to remember that they were descended from James Madison, but also Coreen, a slave who worked on the Montpelier plantation whom her descendants believe had a child with the fourth president.

Kearse, a pediatrician and author of the book “The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President’s Black Family” talks to us today about her family’s 200-year journey from a slave-holding fortress in Ghana, to New York City to a brick walkway at James Madison’s Virginia plantation. In it she tries to reconcile a past that includes Madison, a giant of early America who authored the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, along with the abuses of slavery and rape. It’s a complicated story but a critical one to hear to understand the complex origins of the United States.

Machine-Generated Transcript

Below is an AI-generated transcript complete with timecodes. This transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the podcast episode.

Scott Rank 3:09
Yeah, absolutely. I’m excited because there are a lot of things to discuss here. And I suppose the best starting point is to ground this discussion in your family history. So could you tell me your family’s genealogy as far back as you know, going from your family’s arrival in the United States until today?

Betty Kearse 3:32
Well, the one that goes the farthest back is the English side. So in about 1653, the President’s great-great-grandfather, john Madison, came to the US with other inventors well with some anti indentured servants. And so he was taking advantage of the headright system. which had been started in Virginia to relate to relieving the labor shortage because Virginia was a tobacco state and tobacco requires a lot of labor and putting more out land that had to be recultivated, you know, trees had to be chopped down to pair anyway, very labor-intensive. So the head right system allowed 50 granted 50 acres per each person to come over from Europe to work the land. So john Madison was able to get 600 acres by that system, which he quickly used to get more and more land. And so by the time of his death, in 1683, about 30 years later, he is acquired almost 5000 acres. So then his two sons stayed in that area with the tide at the Tidewater area of Virginia around the Matta Pawnee River. So his two sons stayed there. But then the land got depleted in his grandsons actually moved to the area where Montpelier is now. And a very interesting story about one of his grandson, who was actually the President’s grandfather was Ambrose Madison. So he came, he married Francis Taylor, who has a very interesting story herself and I have just mentioned briefly that her father was James Taylor, who was one of the famous explorers call the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe and they were explorers of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But you know, he was pretty well off. And so when she married Ambrose who is long slaves, and also James Taylor gave the couple that land, which they called Mount Pleasant. But that’s the area where Montpelier isn’t now, the same area. But what’s so interesting about Ambrose is that he only lasted a few months. Because short that was about six months after his arrival. He was dead because he had been poisoned by two of his slaves, with the assistance of other slaves from a nearby plantation. And his death or his murder was actually the first documented murder in Virginia. But his two slaves were not hanged, whereas the assistant slaves were hanged. And his thought that his wife Francis really needed those slaves to help her continue, you know, cultivating and you know, taking advantage of that land she had. So, then Ambrose and Francis had three children, two girls, and then the son, who was James Madison, James Madison senior. And he married Nellie Conway. And the couple had 12 children, the oldest of whom was James Madison, Jr, who became the president, though they had 12 to a really five live to adulthood.

So this is about the time I can bring in the African side of the family. So James Madison senior was officially married to Nellie Conway and as I said, They had these 12 children. But meanwhile, over in Africa, Mandy, who a slave who was called Mandy, was captured off the coast of Ghana, and she was brought to Virginia and then purchased probably by the grandfather by Ambrose. The initial family story said that James Madison purchased her James Madison senior. But further research I learned that James Madison actually never purchased any slaves, but his grandfather had so he probably just inherited Mandy from Ambrose at well after his death, so they found the Oracle. So all that’s documented is all of the English sides is documented. Mandy, it begins In the oral history, and as a young woman, she was captured off the coast of Ghana and ended up in Montpelier. And the story says that she was sent to a cotton field that was at Montpelier. Now, that’s very interesting because bunk tilia was primarily a tobacco plantation. And James Madison senior did branch off into some other crops. But it’s thought that this cotton field was a small area that was used only to help slaves grow fabric, or grow cotton so that they could make what was called Negro cloth to make their own clothes. And Mandy was sent to this small kind of remote field because it was a bit more isolated and Madison could watch her and not in private Exactly. But you know, without a lot of other slaves around. And the story set goes that she was such a good worker that he liked the way she moved up and down the field, she was very productive, and that she attracted him, which it has always bothered me because that kind of makes her responsible for what happened to her and kind of goes along with the thought of that time period, that black women were very irresistible and did everything they could to gain the interest of white men and the term used for the very unpleasant they will call happy horse So, Corinne was James Madison seniors and Mandy’s daughter. So she was there, a legitimate daughter if you will. And it was she who had the relationship with James Madison, Jr, who was married to Dolly Madison but was attracted to Corinne. And in our family stories says that Dolly and James did not have any children. And so it had been assumed that James was infertile or impotent or both. But that’s not true. Dolly may have had some miscarriages, she may have practiced some crude form of birth control and she also had Child, four-year-old boy, Payne Todd, who slept in the bed with him, which is not exactly conducive to

having children. But Corinne was working in the kitchen. And she would as she went back and forth between the kitchen and imagined was about 70 yards away. James saw her and loves to act like her and because he wants did want to have children of his own, if you know he was, he had a stepson Dolly had been had come into the marriage with a child, but he wanted his own. So the family story says that he became attracted to her. And the result of that attraction was a son. Who, whose name was Jim? His name actually may have been Chad rack, but he’s known to our families as Jim. And we can talk at length about what I just said about his name may have been Chad rec. His real name.

Scott Rank 13:18
Yeah, I’m curious about that. One other thing too, at least within your family lore. If this is the case that Corinne is the son of James senior, then that means orange cream is the daughter of James senior that would mean that Korean and James Jr. are half-siblings. So would he have known about this?

Betty Kearse 13:38
Correct? Well, you know, I used to talk to my mother about that quite a bit. Because I would think, of course, he knew, you know, the plantation was 5000 acres or so, but it’s a pretty intimate community. And my mother would say, Well, he probably thought that someone else was the slot father, like some other person, you know, working on the plantation. But I just don’t believe that. I think he didn’t know.

Scott Rank 14:13
Yeah, well, in terms of this relationship, I know at least at that time, cousin marriages were fairly common, I think even up until a couple of generations ago. But was there something about because she was a slave he the familiar line he didn’t really care about if you believe that he did, in fact, know that,

Betty Kearse 14:32
right. I mean, I don’t think that it mattered to him. It was someone that he was attracted to. She was nearby working in the kitchen, walking back and forth between the kitchen in the mansion. And I just think he was attracted to her and her being his half-sister just didn’t matter.

Scott Rank 15:00
So you mentioned that their offspring, son of James was Jim, what the family called him, but he may have officially been named Shadrach. And you said, you talked about the discrepancy. So where did that discrepancy come from? How did he have different names?

Betty Kearse 15:16
Well, I think he was called Jim, officially by the family. But it was through later research that my cousins and I came across a three-man of color, whose name was Chad rack. And Shadrack is very interesting because he was Jim, the person that we call Jim was born in Virginia in 1792. And Chad rack, according to the census, was born in Virginia, in 1792 and The name shad rack, not all that common, but there was a shad rack on at Montpelier, who was an older man. But we believe that the Jim Shadrach person, you know, was a namesake of the oldest shad rack and that’s how that name happened to get chosen. And then later after, so Jim ended up being sold kind of having to jump around a bit here, but Jim got sold and ended up in Tennessee and get some Cody and his son Well actually, let me back up a little let me correct that. Jim ended up in Tennessee. His Son, Emmanuel Elise, one of his sons, his name was Emmanuel was in Gibson County, Tennessee in the 18 He was the property of Jeff Billingsley. Now, let’s hold on to the name Billings lid. shad rack was originally owned by Jeff Koons’s father, whose name was Samuel. Samuel freed him in Bledsoe County, Tennessee. And Chad rack remained there until 1828. At that time, he left Bledsoe and moved to Gibson County. And I believe, and my cousins and I who worked on some of this together, glue that he made that move, because he learned that Emanuel was there. Phyllis Emanuel was his son He would have wanted to be near him. And it’s just interesting that they’re owned by the same family. there’s a there’s a relationship there. So, as I said, Emanuel was owned by Jessica and, and shad rack was owned by Samuel and Shadrach also purchased land from his mother, Mary. So I’m just saying that say how close the two families were. So there was the African American family and then there was the Caucasian family the Billingsley. So when, when Shadrach learned that Emmanuel was with Jaffa in Gibson County, he Left if he had another family in Bledsoe County, less than their moved to Gibson County, purchase land from Mary Billingsley and started up a business there. He did later bring that family to blood, Gibson County. But his goal was to get to the county. And he stayed there until 1848. And what happened in 1848 was that Jepson Billingsley sent Emmanuel and his family by at this point, he was married and had four or five children’s sons and sent them to Texas in 1848, but shad Wragge Madison then shows up in the 1850 census In Illinois.

And so, either Chad like they know what has happened to Emanuel and his family or he decided that he wasn’t going to approve his family to move into yet another slave state and chose to take them into a free state.

Scott Rank 20:26
I think as you showed here, it’s hard to piece all together when the records are incomplete. Sorry, you were going to say something else?

Betty Kearse 20:33
Well, I was just going to mention the name Madison. So Emanuel always knew he was a Madison. And so when he could have fought he was freed and could officially choose a name, he chose Madison. Many slaves would choose their owner’s name, especially if they were pretty happy with how the owner had treated them. So he didn’t choose the day of Billingsley. He chose the name Madison. Likewise, Samuel had been owned by a Billingsley, but when he was freed, he also chose the name Madison. So it’s, you know, it’s the name that is really an interesting tool.

Scott Rank 21:22
What were things like for Jim or we’ll call him shad rack for simplicity, since that’s where he is on different records. According to your family history, did he know that James Madison was his father and how did that affect him?

Betty Kearse 21:36
Well, he didn’t know. He certainly knew by the time he was a teenager. So according to the oral history, you know, as I said, Corrine and James Madison Jr. had a son, column gym at around the same time that he was born Dali, Had nieces come to live with them. And one of them was around the same age. As Jim, they were both babies. And Corinne was assigned to be the wet nurse for her name was Victoria and Corinne nursed both babies at the same time, which I assumed was fairly common practice for a slave woman who was nursing her own baby to also be assigned to nurse, another baby and so sometimes they would end up Nursing at the same time. You know, white baby on one breast and a black baby on another breast. But these two grew up to be quite good friends

and Victoria wood

bringing to her lessons, and it was illegal for slaves to learn to read. But Victoria would teach him and Madison didn’t do anything to stop that. And so it’s believed that he allowed that to happen because he knew that Jim was his son. And I believe that Jim knew that he had this privilege because of his relationship to Madison. But eventually, as they grew older, Dolly Madison decided that Jim and Victoria should be separated. But it didn’t work for a while. You know, that’s kind of a long story. But when they became teenagers when Victoria And Jim became teenagers. dollies sold, Jim, and as he was being taken away, Corinne beg, Jim, always remember your a Madison. Then she said that because she believes that the name could help them find each other again someday. So he certainly knew for sure at that point. And that statement, always remember your Madison was the beginning of my family’s credo. So as the credo began as a tool is a name you know, as I say, I could help them find each other again someday. But after emancipation, my great grandpa Father Emanuel, who we’ve been talking about, added something on to those words, because he didn’t have to use it anymore to find each other if they should be sold apart. But for him, it became an inspiration. So if your grandfather was a great man, you could be a great man too. And so he added to the credo, always remember you’re a Madison, you come from a president. Hey,

Scott Rank 25:36
well, I’m very interested in some of the memorabilia and documents that were passed down through your family and that you had access to as well. Because from what I studied of emancipation, and the periods afterward, African American families that were broken apart because of slavery, because this or that person was sold off for decades after emancipation. He would try to look for each other and you have classified ads and newspapers up till I think world war one where people are still looking for each other because they haven’t found one another. So that some of the challenges of piecing together this period in history are what you mentioned. But what are some of the documents that your family did hold on to?

Betty Kearse 26:20
Well, let me see. If I was the most exciting document is an 1834 bill of sale in which he, Emmanuel obtains a wife. He was owned by Jeff to Billingsley, but Jeff so decided that he needed to purchase a wife for a manual. And so from a Gustus king, he purchased Elizabeth and it’s a very interesting document because it kind it was quite a surprise to me. That it says that. So again, Gus King says in this document to Jeff, you have to provide Betsy and her issue as they call her offspring with, you know, good clothing, adequate food, and that you also have a choice as to whether or not you’re going to stay together. So what’s so exciting about that document is that it’s actually a marriage license, because they did chosen to stay together. And so I believe that that’s the closest thing, the closest type of document that any African American could find about their enslaved ancestors being united legally. It would never be called a marriage license. But it was a bill of sale that put these two people together, who chose then to stay together. So we have that we have land deeds. My so one of the manuals, sons was Mac and Mac was my great great grandfather. And he stayed with his owner after emancipation until he could, as a sharecropper, gather up enough money to purchase his own land. So we have the document of the land that he purchased in may think 868 I believe, yeah, he purchased this first. He purchased 200 acres so we have that land deed and then Just two years later, he sold that land and bought a larger piece of land. He bought 400 acres for $200. So we have the 1860 slave census that’s in there. We have birth certificates, death certificates, and personal letters. This photograph in the later years, the oldest photograph is actually my famous my favorite photograph. It’s of Elizabeth, that enslaved woman who was purchased for a manual picture of her taken probably at the turn of the century. There’s pieces of clothing, newspaper article, this is all kinds of okay. things in there.

Scott Rank 30:01
Yeah, kudos to them for keeping track of all these documents because lots of people have stories. So the historian in me says hats off to them for being able to keep a record of all of this.

Betty Kearse 30:14
Well, my grandfather, Max died keeping records so he kept the land deeds. And then as the, my, my grant, I’m sorry, my great grandfather, I say, my grandfather, my great grandfather, Max, kept those land deeds. My grandfather, John Chester, you know, kept photographs and added on, you know, whatever he could add on. Well, I one

Scott Rank 30:46
Another question before we get to your story of confirming your descendancy of Madison with DNA testing. Let’s compare this to the case of Thomas Jefferson and even at the end of his life, There were whispers that he had produced offspring with Sally Hemings. And I think it might have been the presidential election or the race against John Adams that was ugly. There were all sorts of accusations and things said in newspapers and Jefferson’s offspring was mentioned at one point. And from what I know, there were always murmurings and questions about Jefferson’s his offspring from Sally Hemings. And Sally Hemings family would say it and then in the 1990s, there was DNA evidence that confirmed somebody from Jefferson’s male line did indeed have relations and produce offspring with Sally Hemings. In your family’s case, was there ever this sort of historical interest in James Madison and questions whether he also fathered a child with someone on his estate or was this mostly contained within your family until recently?

Betty Kearse 31:57
I believe it was mostly contained within my Family. There weren’t rumors that I’m aware of political issues that were thrown out about that. situations were similar in that Thomas Jefferson also didn’t have male children. By his wife, I’m trying I was just pausing to try to remember her name. I can’t come to me right now.

Scott Rank 32:27
I have the same problem right. Now it’s not Martha, what is it? I’m sure there are some listeners just slamming their heads against the computer like it’s this but sorry, listeners. This happens to the best of us.

Betty Kearse 32:38
Okay. But he also did not have a Y chromosome pass. He had it. He didn’t pass down the right Y chromosome. They could be used for this analysis that was done. It could only be done to Sally Heming’s children because He Jefferson and his wife named Katherine. But anyway, Jefferson and his wife only had daughters. And so it’s similar because James Madison also didn’t have sons with daughters for a DNA to be used to verify. Okay,

Scott Rank 33:25
So let’s get to the point where you begin doing research properly.

Scott Rank 33:33
What compelled you to take a DNA test? Did you think okay, I want to finally get some verifiable science behind this family lore and get this certified? Was that the reason or was there something else behind that?

Betty Kearse 33:47
No, I mean, I just thought I, you know, always known that I was in Madison because from the time I was four or five, I was always told this and you know, we have all these wonderful stories, it was a lot of interesting detail to kind of, you know, support the legacy. But I thought it would be great to have, you know, the DNA, which became, you know, very popular, especially in the 90s. And even more so, in my case, after Thomas, Sally Heming’s family was able to prove to what I was the truth their you know, their stories. So what I did was, I got Well, I developed a relationship with Dr. Bruce Jackson, who is a who actually passed away a couple of years ago, but he was a pre-eminent DNA geneticist who was interested in helping African Americans confirm their African lineages and also some of the American lineages. So what I did was I had three of my male cousins to cheek swabs to Dr. Jackson. I’ve been tried to find a male descendant of the acknowledged Africa, the acknowledged Madison, who would be willing to submit a DNA swab so that we can compare. But what happened was, I was told by the National Association of Madison family descendants, that there was only one living bale who had the appropriate genealogy. I was never given his name, but that man did agree to submit a DNA swab. Unfortunately, right after he agreed to do that the Washington Post, published an article about my quest, and he just shied away. He didn’t want to get up involved in some of the things that had happened with Jefferson. So he was Drew. And I tried a number of other ways to find a male DNA donor. But it wasn’t successful. For example, there was a genealogist in England, who was looking for a male descendant of an antecedent of those Madison’s who came to America thought was the table in England would be more willing to participate because they wouldn’t assault have any stigma associated with slavery. But his name’s Ian Morris, the geneticists, and he wasn’t able to find a living male descended. So it seems there’s a lot of but there’s a number of females but since but that there are many male buses, so I kind of put that on the back burner. I think I will try to get back to it. But I became more and more interested in the slaves and their descendants and became more and more just inspired by them. And so that’s where my book focuses. It focuses on what remarkable people my enslaved ancestors were.

Did I go off with too far off

Scott Rank 38:00
Well, there’s a lot to unpack. So it definitely takes time to do that. A couple of follow-ups with that, I want to get into those stories that you mentioned thereof the descendants of the slaves. One other thing before I forget, are there any other stories within your family lore concerning Madison and Corrine, that really stuck out to you?

Betty Kearse 38:23
No, no. You know, and one of the reasons is that kind of sexual relationship really was avoided. You know, talking about it was avoided, right. And my grandfather was one I love to tell stories. But whenever my mother would ask him about what happened between Mandy and men, Madison senior what happens between Corinne and Madison Jr. He just wouldn’t talk about it. Hmm. Right.

Scott Rank 39:04
Well, yeah, that definitely affects how information is passed on there. Well concerning the rest of your family then you had talked about up to emancipation and then we skipped ahead about a century and a half. As you’re investigating your family tree and how it branches out what were some surprising discoveries that you came across.

Betty Kearse 39:27
Well, Mandy was the first our first African ancestor in his country, just sort of phenomenal strength. She believed in herself. She wouldn’t tell anybody her real name. So I guess the most surprising thing here is that we’ve always called her Mandy. But that’s not that was not her name. She believed that by keeping her name secret Granted, she could protect herself and protect her family. So she only allowed anyone to know that her slave. So that was a surprise. Don’t think of other things that were surprising. Me, I just think it’s phenomenal that Elizabeth and Emmanuel ended up having some 12 or so children. It’s not exactly known how many they have had because some probably died. Some were so old way. But when they were sent from Tennessee to Texas, the whole family was able to stay together. That’s a bit of a surprise because it was very common. To just break up families, and this family almost got broken up, because Jeff’s the Billingsley, who was the original owner had planned split them up and give them to different members of his own family. But the emancipation, so he, his second will, was in 1862. And he was going to split up the family, but he died after the Emancipation Proclamation, but he did not succeed in doing that. I get this surprising too, that all girls died. And so we end up with these eight boys.

Scott Rank 41:52
One follow up with Emanuel’s family. I’m very interested in that that they stay together because When when I’ve read accounts of former slaves that came out of these interviews in the 1930s, with elderly people who had been emancipated in the 1860s, it sounds like something I noticed over and over again is the most heart-rending thing. It’s not necessarily the physical abuse, although that is traumatic to many people. It really is the separation of families that seemed to break people, people’s hearts Above all,

Betty Kearse 42:26

Scott Rank 42:27
Emanuel’s family stayed together. So why do you think how do you think they were able to stay together when that wasn’t the case for so many others?

Betty Kearse 42:36
Well, they all ended up working on Yep, to building these plants plantation. And so initially, when they were moved, they were just, you know, the four or four oldest kids that were transferred. And then Elizabeth Emanuel can have kids and the kids could work on that plantation to think it was probably just economics. He didn’t have to buy more slaves. Have Elizabeth have more children after emancipation, you know, they all stayed in the same area. They stayed in the Travis County and Bastrop County, there is trash. So they were initially taken to Cedar Creek, Texas, which is in Bastrop County. And then after emancipation, some of them moved to Austin, which is in Travis County. And there is still in Austin. A slave camp was actually not a slave cabin, but it was a cabin that was built in 1860 Three by one of my great uncle Henry. And it is still there as sort of a testimony to the strength of this family. I’ve been there about three times now. But the first time I went, you know, I walked around the cabin. I was trying, I couldn’t get in. But I was trying to figure out how to get in and how to try to peek through the shuttered windows. And, you know, I touched these logs and I touched the mortar. And I could just, I could just feel the stress or determination of Henry to build a home for his family the first chance he got, and the house was so important to him, that later when he was able to build a house out of wood or the clapboard, oh, you know, just a regular wouldn’t have He didn’t tear down the cabin to build another house around the first house that he was able to own.

Scott Rank 45:12
Can you tell me about the other places that you’ve traveled to, to walk in the steps of your family? I think you travel to Ghana with the slaveholding Fortress in New York and other areas as well.

Betty Kearse 45:23
Well, I went on, I went to Laos, Portugal,

where the slave trade began. And because I just wanted to get a sense of a real sense of this history. But that was turned out to be a kind of it was kind of a disappointing experience because I really wanted to see the slave stockades. where, you know, stolen, people had been chained. And that had been taken that location had been taken over by concession stand and that was just Doodle, Chris, you know, to me, extremely disappointing. And then after that, I decided I wanted to actually trace Mandy’s footsteps as best I could. So that’s when I went to Ghana, West Africa and I went to Elmina castle, which is she may have been hell there before being transported on a slave ship over to the US. But that it’s really hard to put into words what that was like. Because I grew up in Oakland, California, in a kind of, I don’t want to use the word privileged. I was kind of soil I was well taken care of. I never had a hungry moment. But I was a black woman. And when I got to this city, A fortress, and it got to where the women were held. I could just really feel myself in there. And I could feel myself being crowded in, among other women who had been stolen away from everything. And didn’t know what was going to be next for them to become a very personal kind of experience. And then I, so I went to Baltimore, Maryland, later, and they’re in the Great Black figures in the wax museum in Baltimore, have a replica of a slave ship. And, you know, I walk in there and they have exhibits of many things that were What’s happened on the Middle Passage, but the thing that was most compelling to me was the impending rape of a captive slave woman, let’s say intending. Because what it shows is just these ships offering office, excuse me, Officer hovering above her, and her, just her fear. I could just feel her fear, you know, knowing what the next step is knowing what was going to happen. And later in the museum, I was really heartbroken by wax figures of little boys who were not sort of crowded together. You know, I’m a retired pediatrician. So seeing those children was no just heartbreaking for me.

And just have wondered, you know what I have been able to survive Mandy did and countless other enslaved women did, but I just couldn’t imagine ever being that strong. Maybe having that amount of inner strength and determination to live. But so those were among my travels with of course, I went to Montpelier several times and the first time I had the very emotional experience of just reaching for the word to describe that I was able to walk in Korean footsteps literally walk in and ancestors footsteps because on the back of the mansion at Montpelier, there was a groove That slit a groove in the ground that led from where the kitchen would have been. Or not to the kit. I’m sorry, I’m seeing a segue, it would have led from where the Madison’s would have been served all the way out to a kitchen that was about 70 yards away, where Corinne would have walked back and forth as she and other enslaved cooks. We’re bringing food to and from, you know, the mansion. And it just made me feel part of her and part of belonging to mount Montpelier. And my connection there, you know, three generations of enslaved ancestors there, Vandy. Corinne in Jim and I felt that I was just able to be there with them.

Scott Rank 51:00
Well, I have a question that I think gets to the heart of what you have been describing here about remembering the past. And there’s a lot of different opinions and I want to hear your opinion and bear with me It might take a minute to set this up. So the question of how to remember James Madison and by extension, other founding fathers, were at James Madison, he’s called the father of the Constitution. He wrote the Constitution the Bill of Rights co-wrote the Federalist Papers and made the possibility for a lot of the ideals of America to happen for freedom of speech for equality among citizens. But obviously, in his personal life, he didn’t live that out. He owned people he had no rights whatsoever legally. He whatever the relationship with Corinne would be exploitative, just by the different Different status they did have, and everything that you described to with Corinne with Mandy’s story as well, there are terrible things happening here. And in order to understand the sides of the story, I mean, different people look at this in different ways where the New York Times has recently had the 1619 project that argues that slavery is in the very DNA of the United States. It formed its economy, its legal system, and that existed pass emancipation into the Jim Crow era, and many would argue in the 21st century. On the other side, coming from the other direction. I have listeners that I think they really they push back against that narrative, and one person wrote in saying that he has a family member who does historical reenactments at Faneuil Hall in Boston, it’s this shopping center that has historical buildings where reenactors perform, and I think his the heated John Adams but he was distressed because he heard the word Organizers, organizers wanting to abandon the subjects of John Adams and the other founding fathers and replace it with a model slave auction. And he said, Well, I could get that if you had a slave auction and something like Richmond, Virginia, or there was a famous one. But Boston was the birth of the abolitionist movement. And they sent an enormous amount of Union soldiers to fight and die in the Civil War. So his perspective is sort of by making absolutely everything about slavery with the founding fathers, we’re lumping in with I don’t know the Barbary pirates and people that have absolutely no redeeming values. And we’re disregarding that, even if they didn’t practice the equality of all people, they at least created a system where that dream could one day be realized. So that’s a very long way to say that there’s a lot of different opinions about this. And it’s and you know, this better than anyone else. So how do you make what is your take on this legacy?

Betty Kearse 53:55
Well, no, as you said,

Labor is in the DNA of this country, and it never would have been what it is without the labor of slaves. But the Constitution itself set up a means of I don’t want to use the word justifying because it is no justification. But it sets the country up for making African Americans lesser and in much of the country in different ways as you go from different areas of the country. African Americans are viewed as lesser. So when James Madison decided that the slaves would be counted as three fifths, each labor is counted as three-fifths of a person in terms of taxation and representation that makes them lesser calling them other persons, instead of calling them slaves kind of is kind of very odd term that I’ve never really understood how they came to make that decision. But by calling the other, it makes it makes them lesser. It makes them outsiders. Certainly, it excludes them from many of the benefits that the Constitution was written to guarantee. But what’s particularly odd about it, I think, is that they do use the word persons. So even though they’re human beings, they’re not entitled to the same, the same right. And then this attitude of lesser passed on and other documents before slavery were slaves on even named and lesser during the reconstruction period were the ideals that are laid down in the constitution are not really enforced in a way that allows the former slaves to have a true level of freedom. And then the Jim Crow area, and the black laws just continue on and amplify that same idea that African Americans are lesser and lift is broken, even with the 14th and 15th amendments, is still not quite as respected. throughout much of the country at that time, and you can see the fallout today. Absolutely.

Scott Rank 57:08
So what do you hope people would take away from your story where your family’s motto was always remembered your Madison, and then your grandfather was a great grandfather who added the identity of being related to a president. So there’s pride there, but then you’re also walking in the footsteps of others of Mandy of Corrine. And what do you hope that people get out of this story?

Betty Kearse 57:34
Let me just back up just a tiny bit. There were two than them. So the first one was that my great-great-grandfather, Mac added, you descend from President. And then my grandfather, john Chester, whom I call Gramps added and African slaves and that is critical. So The whole credo now always remembers your Madison, you come from a president and African slaves. And so what I want to accomplish in the book is that and African slaves are critical and important, and my family is not the only one that descended from remarkable people. Slaves possess a sense of hope and inner strength by which they survived. They also possess many skills and talents, by which they contributed mightily to this country. But those qualities did not die with the slaves. those qualities were passed down to their descendants from generation to generation, including today’s young people and I want young people to really recognize and be proud of their slave and history and to embrace it within themselves and to know that they have the same abilities. And I, I would like it to become one name, among others, but one means of combating racism, at least how, especially how they view themselves, how young black people use them, view themselves, they to have strengths and talents and the ability to fulfill their dream to contribute to the country. And that’s what I want to achieve in this book.

Scott Rank 59:50
Absolutely. And the book is the other Madison’s the last history of our presidents black family. And I’m sure there’s a lot more to go into there that we weren’t able to discuss. But this is very fascinating. I really appreciate all this insight and all these facts I’m sure many people aren’t aware of. So, Betty, thank you very much for joining us and sharing all this with us.

Betty Kearse 1:00:12
Oh, thank you for having me on your podcast. All right, listeners.


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"The Lost History of James Madison’s Black Family" History on the Net
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July 14, 2024 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/lost-history-james-madisons-black-family>
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