The Virginia Festival of the Book in partnership with Encyclopedia Virginia presents Dr. Bettye Kearse and 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 shares 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.

As part of the Virginia Festival of the Book’s ongoing Shelf Life virtual series, this event is FREE to attend and open to the public. To attend, please register below to take part on Zoom or simply make plans to watch the livestream on

This event will offer closed captions and an accompanying live transcript using Zoom’s built-in automatic speech recognition software (ASR). To request live-captioning accommodations, please write no later than seven days before the event. A video recording from this event will be provided soon after completion and an accurate transcript will be available at a later date, at

“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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