Published May 20, 2021

The Virginia Festival of the Book in partnership with Encyclopedia Virginia presented Dr. Bettye Kearse for a discussion of her book, The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President’s Black Family, in conversation with Dr. Shelley Murphy, who conducts the Descendant Outreach Program at the University of Virginia. Dr. Kearse shared her family’s story, retained by eight generations of griots and griottes in oral and written histories and confirmed by her own extensive research in her quest to discover and tell a more complete story of an extraordinary American family.

Watch the video from this event:

“The story my family kept alive and those that other African-American families kept alive have evolved for memory to heritage and now can emerge as history, a more inclusive and complete history.”

Dr. Bettye Kearse, The Other Madisons

“A Roots for a new generation, rich in storytelling and steeped in history.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Astonishing… In extraordinary times, as statues fall, Bettye Kearse has written an extraordinary book. It contains lessons for all Americans… Powerful…Seeking to validate and enlarge the black Madisons’ saga, to tell a nuanced story until now completely unknown, [Kearse] succeeds richly…Leaving her much-celebrated white ancestors in the background, she restores the black Madisons to history. They are resilient Americans, second to none.” —Michael Henry Adams, The Guardian

“[An] evocative and probing debut…[Kearse] succeeds in portraying her family’s tenacious rise in social standing across eight generations. This moving account asks essential questions about how American history gets told.” —Publishers Weekly


Thanks to our community partners for their help in sharing this event: Montpelier Descendants Committee, Descendants of Enslaved Communities at the University of Virginia, Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.

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