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tv   Bettye Kearse The Other Madisons  CSPAN  May 17, 2020 1:30am-2:16am EDT

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and then you will be notified of the future crowd cast we hope you stay safe and well. thank you. >> welcome to the atlanta history center i am virginia prescott and your house tonight i'm speaking with on - - about the other medicine purchasing the book directly with the link in the chat box it also provided on the atlanta history website we do invite you to get in your questions and i'll try to get to as many of them as time allows.
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a retired physician and geneticist and nominated essayist it follows a 30 year quest it is called route for a new generation thank you for being with us. >> were happy to be a part of the program. >> most of us think of james madison as a founder of our country with the first draft of the bill of rights, what did you think or what were you told? >> so in this american history but i was also told of my
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great-great-grandfather so he was my ancestor. >> always remember you are a madison coming from african slaves and the president. what does that mean to you as a child? >> it sets up clear expectations to be an inspiration to be reminded he is a great man and that also i have slaves in my family so there is a lot to live up to. >> and your mother care read stories of lineage and both
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were enslaved. eight generations going back to the african woman kidnapped and brought to the united states. so tell us about that tradition and the role in your family. >> the tradition goes back
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thousands of years before the birth of christ. those who maintain the entire culture with its value forever. but primarily it is a tradition of oral history. >> so throughout your family and your mother told the story there was a slight presentation to those genealogical organizations you call that the black madison lecture circuit. in effect he handed the role to you. what was in the box lots of photographs and amazing hand stitching but.
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>> and that is very important with a decreased responsibility because my mother
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had not warned me. of my responsibility to take care of the contents and be responsible to make sure the stories did not die and were passed along. >> then before the time my grandfather kept but then he was absolutely devastated. so i didn't know if i could try to make sure that didn't happen again or should i tell the stories to people who are
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interested? i decided on the latter because there's so many important things or so many were so important and then to use that message of persistence and love that i thought was important to share. >> i want to hear more about that speaking of ambivalence setting you on a path of discovery many obstacles and a lot of emotional way to your mother had reverence for the medicine family and gave her pride and meaning and strength after a hard life so what are your feelings and what that
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meant for you because you have more ambivalence. >> so during the civil rights movement and we try to talk about them which is very different and was very proud to be assured and comforted
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and to set her apart from experiencing the difficult parts to be black in america. >> growing up during jim crow and just to reiterate that if people have questions you can ask them in the q&a section on the bottom of your screen and we will try to get to them. but what you were alluding to hitting these head on kidnapped and then purchased madison seniors sexually assaulted he her, she bore
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his child and then raped and then bore his child so there's also incest. and then to call that courageous to have that conversation what that means. >> sitting on the floor in my bedroom with a lot of papers around me to say did she recognize what this was? i said you know madison was a rapist? she said really? i said yes.
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for what they were. she was quite uncomfortable with that term. her term that she preferred was visiting. >> what do you think that meant for her to frame it like that? it is such a part of what you confronted it isn't just not find historical records but your own family and the history they carry with them and in a way you were batting at the sacred cow. >> yes. i was forced to take it up not just my mother but my grandfather who always used
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the term visiting and explaining to her what it meant and then my mother goes to someone else they were very uncomfortable talking about what actually had happened in a certain way and then was angry. >> so for you we will get the unvarnished truth for what has gone unchallenged so james madison did not have any children with his wife she was a widow dolly did not have any when they were married but under the life of their son who was sold off at her urging
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can you give us a recap it is complicated and it is a life but what you heard. >> jim was madison's and about the time he was born he came to live with them and was the wetnurse so the story goes and put the baby on the other breast and nurse them together. so when they were in their
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teens they fall in love with each other dolly madison found out about it and sold him to tennessee and he never saw his mother or father again. >> such a heartbreaking story and just one of many. so you decided you would find the unnamed and recorder heard what happened and then you make your first of many trips to the madison family plantation to portugal, africa, like so many people who are descended from slaves it was not considered important enough to documents of some trails went call that there is some breakthrough
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moments you care to share any of those? >> in terms of whatever you discovered along the way. there so many little gems as you wander through the maze finding out about your family. it was difficult often they were separated. and it was very difficult to find out where he had gone exactly. and then the trail picks up with his son emmanuel so he doesn't have his name but we know who he was.
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for someone that was famous in tennessee so we hope to trace back but we didn't quite do it. because one of my cousins have passed but my cousin came across in 1830 census. because the man he found was not a slave.
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so for a number of reasons we believe shadrach madison could have been jim. so that is what we are trying to do to verify the shadrach and was born in virginia at the same time at the same place originally owned by the same family they had the unusual name shadrach but then they chose the name madison. >> which speaks to the always remember you are a madison. thank you for writing this important book what about those rewriting slavery as
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indentured servitude? >> they are deniers. and in some ways and though i didn't want to talk about the pain fall part of american history. it happened. because the country would not have been what it is. >> that comes across so clearly in your book the role of dependency on slavery as the emotional support and user support and other ways he went
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to portugal and research the origins of the slave trade that was adopted to rationalize the business then to ghana, why take on these physical and emotional experiences? what do they add? >> they help me to understand who i am. i am up in that very protected environment. i had no idea of my enslaved ancestors and literally i have
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walked in her footsteps just a profound experience. and in so doing i got just an inkling of what my ancestors have gone through with their experience and how they help to shape me. i learned about the incredible strength and their sense of hope and the values that was passed down to all of us. >> is that true for every say family not just mine. >> we will get to as many as
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possible. you just to yourself in all the way and trying to understand that depravity and inhumanity but also to confirm the family lineage not just through historical records but also through dna to enlist the help of doctor jackson do you approach the national society of descendents about authenticating your families dna? >> and then to emphasize again and again the genealogy and then say i told you. so the national society one
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man who had appropriate genealogy and initially was willing to participate but what happens was that shortly after that with the research of the "washington post" and didn't want to get involved so he backed off and since then i haven't been interested in that. that more and more than a dna that other non-
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african-american families but that's really not is what is important. >> that is fascinating you have been asked many times would it matter if you did get proof that you were a descendent from james madison? are that you were not? you came to an interesting place with that. >> if i did it would be good for my book. [laughter] but it's about much more it's really about understanding who you are it's honoring and respecting and to know that you inherited and that you have an opportunity to contribute just as much as
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they did in this country it's about knowing who you are. >> you have any role of faith and religion played in the life of your ancestors they must of been strong inside and out how does that form your own view of life? >> my enslaved ancestors were strong christians. most were with that sense of community and the important component to our values for what was passed down to all of us that is an important part
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of who i am. >> have you been in contact with other enslaved families of family on - - founding fathers? tell me more about that. >> yes. yes. one was at the university of virginia i can't remember but there was a symposium so with james monroe and thomas jefferson and the descendents of slaves and then later, just
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last year i was at montpelier for another town that was monroe, jefferson and washington but yes and i have stayed in contact. >> so many relationships have been built in this journey several were those that worked at montpelier this is the most elite of elite americans called the father of the constitution and to preserve the secret fire of liberty at the very foundation of america's national eat those
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be at the mandate came up with the political compromise you do so much to flesh out the people that are in your slave descendent line what about these contradictions with james madison or does that matter? doesn't matter who he was? that is a good question and it's tough. i think it does it's hard to balance out his faults it would be great if he freed slaves and lived up to the ideals but he didn't he did not free a single slave.
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>> george washington freed the slaves and thomas jefferson freed slaves and those descendents but madison didn't's free a single slave. so he went with him and to philadelphia to contract assuming that he was freed.
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>> so they lived this strange dichotomy of these wonderful ideals but not truly being able to live up to them. and said that's the way we do things here. and they didn't want to flesh those out but as far as acting on it. >> wet positive or negative reactions have you received from your book? >> so far we probably had the
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reaction. >> i am guessing there would be some controversy some people are just getting the dna test for sally hemmings family. i was talking about building relationships that montpelier but to re-examine those historical narratives there was a real history movement that wants to contextualize how we remember if it integrates that story from sally hemmings at monticello or the contextualizing lost cause civil war monuments. how would you like your family story to be reflected at montpelier?
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>> the first time i went there was 19826 years before the dna test.
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