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The Other Madisons (Digital Audiobook)

The Lost History of a President's Black Family

By Bettye Kearse, Karen Chilton (Narrator)

Publication Date: March 23, 2020

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (3/23/2021)
Hardcover (3/24/2020)


In The Other Madisons, Bettye Kearse—a descendant of an enslaved cook
and, according to oral tradition, President James Madison—shares her family
story and explores the issues of legacy, race, and the powerful consequences of
telling the whole truth.

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, Kearse became the eighth-generation griotte for her
family. Its 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, Kearse 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 slaveholding
fortress in Ghana, below a federal building in New York City, and under a brick
walkway at James Madison’s Virginia plantation. When Kearse tried to confirm the
information her ancestors had passed down, she encountered obstacles at every turn.

Part personal quest, part testimony, part historical corrective, The Other
Madisons is the saga of an extraordinary American family told by a griotte in search
of the whole story.