tv Bettye Kearse The Other Madisons CSPAN May 27, 2020 10:00pm-10:44pm EDT
great great great grandfather. and that's my ancestor. >> and always remember you are a madison you come from african slaves and the president. what does that mean to you as a child? >> that sets of clear expectations i was reminded and that also i have slaves said my family and there is a lot to live up to. >> and your mother carried stories of the lineage told by
her father before both were enslaved eight generations going back to the african woman kidnapped from her home country about to the united states this is a tradition tell me about that tradition and the role of the families. >> the tradition goes back thousands of years, probably before christ. and those that maintain entire cultures and their values forever. but primarily it is a
tradition of oral history. >> so this is carried on for your family and your mother, she told the story there was a slight presentation she gave to organizations in the eighties called the black madisons lecture circuit in the fact she did this role to you when she gave you the book as you call it. what was in the box? >> death certificates, lots of photographs and a very brand of embellishing and slaves the
and then not sure how i should handle it. >> and what contributes to my concern and the world that actually created the box and that time my grandfather and great-grandfather and that time my grandfather and great-grandfather those documents and my grandfather lost it. in a small texas town. and was devastated. so why didn't know if that didn't happen again or should
i tell the stories to the many people who are interested? i decided on the latter because are so many important stories around those things that are still important. not just my family stories but stories of enslaved people. and they were represented as african-americans to leave strength and persistence and love that i thought was important to share. >> i want to hear more speaking about a sense of ambivalence to set you on a path of discovery many miles covered in many obstacles a lot emotional freight. your mother had reverence for the madison family they gave her pride and meaning and strength your mother had a
hard life. i would like to hear your feelings about that because you had more ambivalence about being connected. >> i did. i grew up in the sixties so i came away with the black power movement so i felt licensed to take on some of the more uncomfortable sides and not try to hide and then said talk about it which is very different from the way my mother looked at it she was very proud to be a descendent
of president madison and in some way, reassured and comforted by having something special in the background. that set her apart from those who were experiencing being black in america. >> and grew up during jim crow. and just to reiterate that if people have questions, you can ask them in the q&a just type in that section on the bottom of your screen and we will try to get to them. but what you are alluding to hitting these things head on it all begins that she is kidnapped from africa as a
teenager and purchased by james madison senior he sexually assaulted he her, she bore his child and james junior who became president raped her who bore his child so not only rape that incest. and her mother was resistant to call it rape and it was courageous of you to have that conversation with her head on can you talk about that quick. >> sitting on the floor in i decided to call her because i remember thinking did she really recognize what this was?
and i said you know president madison was a rapist? she said really? i said yes. so she was quite uncomfortable with that term. and the term that she preferred was visiting. >> what do you think that meant for her two favorite like that? i've interested in the dynamic because it's such a part of what you confronted not just historical records but your own family, the history they carried with them and in the way you were batting at the sacred cow. >> yes.
and to take up to that and not just my mother but my grandfather who passed on the stories and then to explain what that meant and then my mother will go to someone else and they were very uncomfortable of what happened in a straightforward way and that angry approach. >> and now we will get at the unvarnished truth that had gone unchallenged. the official history is that madison did not have any children with his wife dolly madison. she is a widow and had a son when he married. but the story your family tells is the life of james and
karine who was sold off as a teenager at dolly's urging. give us a little brief course that is a life we are talking about but what you heard about his life. >> jim was madison and karine's son about the time he was born sally's these came to live with him and had little children and then found hired karine to be the wetnurse. so the story goes that should put jim on one breast and the
baby named victoria on the right and over the years they became very good friends and in their teens they fell in love with each other and dolly found out about it she sold jim and never saw his mother or father or victoria again. >> is a heartbreaking story. just one of many. so you decided to find that unnamed and unrecorded what happened to jim and that you made your first of many trips to montpelier at the madison family plantation from portugal, africa, and several states. so me were descended from slave slaves, they were
considered important enough a lot of trails went cold that there were some breakthrough moments. do you care to share any of those? >> in terms of whatever you discovered along the way. there so many little gems that you wander through this maze to find out more about your family. >> it was difficult because a lot of names were not recorded. often families were separated and i tried it was very difficult to find out exactly where jim had gone but the
trail picks up with his son emmanuel he doesn't have his name but we know who he was because of who sold him so he went by billingsley so we had hoped to trace back from emmanuel to jim but we didn't quite do it i mean we me and one of my cousins were doing research together. one unfortunately past, that my cousin came across and 18
important book what about rewriting that narrative around slavery as the indentured servitude. >>. >> and prior to american history. it happened it's a very important part in with millions of slaves second that comes across so clearly in your book that the role of dependency on slavery not as an institution as an emotional
support and you went to portugal and research the origins of the slave trade and that twisted moral code adopted to rationalize which was very profitable. and to take on these physical and emotional experiences what did they add? >>. >> for me they help me to understand who im. i grew up in a solid and protected environment. i didn't have any idea of my enslaved ancestors. felt that i was part of
q&a. will be happy to get there as many as possible. and you to yourself and all the way and in these trips that you went on but also with that family lineage not just those historical records by dna to enlist the help of doctor bruce jackson and those madison family descendents of authenticating the families dna. >> and then to emphasize again and again be careful of genealogies if you compare dna see i told you.
and then to pursue that. >> that the dna and other non- african-american families for what it is important to that is fascinating. would it matter to you if you do get proof if you were descended from james madison or if you are not. you came to an interesting place with that i would love to hear more about that. >> so it's about understanding who you are and respecting the
slaves and that you inherited. and then to contribute just as much as they did. it's about knowing who you are. >> do you have any sense of the role or religion or what faith they played in the life of your slave ancestors? the must be strong people inside and out. how is that with your own view of life? >>. >> my enslaved ancestors and most slaves were in that is a
that there was a symposium. but the sense of james monroe and the descendents of slaves. and then later just last year we got mount hillier and another town monroe, jefferson and washington and we stayed in contact. >> so many relationships in this journey. several with those that work at montpelier along with many others. talk about the most elite of americans called the father of the constitution and to preserve the sacred fire of liberty at the very foundation
and yet this is the man that came up with a political compromise of enslaved africans three fifths human and then flesh out the people in your mind had you make sense of these contradictions? or does it even matter who he was? >>. >> that's a good question. and a tough one. i think it does matter. it's hard to balance out his thoughts with his strengths it would be great if he freed slaves and lived up to his
ideals, but he didn't. >> i cut you off. >> that george washington did not free his black slaves but jefferson freed slaves from descendents. that james madison did not free a single slave. so his slave went with him to philadelphia to contract madison to be sold to a northern or northern not just knowing that eventually or assuming that eventually he
would be free and he was freed. like jefferson and all of them they lived this strange dichotomy and lofty ideals, wonderful ideals and not sure if anyone lived up to them. and said that's the way we do things here. and didn't really want to flesh out the wrong. as far as acting on it. >> what positive or negative reactions have you received from your book? >> so far.
[laughter] i have only had positive actions. >> guessing there will be controversy and what about the dna test for the sally hemmings family? >> right. >> building relationships that mount hillier to re-examine historical narratives and how they are formed. there is a real history movement that wants to contextualize how we remembered if it is integrating that story of sally hemmings at monticello and at the atlanta history center to contextualize lost cause civil war monuments.
how would you like your family story to be reflected at montpelier? >> the first amendment to montpelier was 1982 this was six years before the dna proof of the hemmings family. they were ahead of the game already because the day that i arrived, i was able to see the excavation site which was the south kitchen they were looking for the truth to sleeve the slaves were and how they played a role in james madison's life and what the contributions were. and they have continue to do
that they have always been supportive because they know the full story. and my aunt's name is up on the wall and the other slaves are listed and to be involved in a permanent exhibit and that exhibit is something that i feel all americans should see. but it puts the role of slaves into perspective. and it talks about the role that montpelier and how they
were dealt with in the constitution and the fact they were people, not just commodities, commodities, and i like to say there were millions of slaves and millions of individuals. and that exhibit encourages them to do that. >> what does that mean to have that picture of american histor history? >> it is the real story. and the voices that were heard. african slaves were not able to speak for themselves from
as i was writing this book i cannot imagine that i hope they pass down that quality so there is a chapter in the book and that is the chapter about rape. and for that message i wanted to convey that it could happen at any setting. and one is with the marriage. and with that possibility of being sexually abused spirit that's a lot for readers to dig into with the sexualization of african-american women. >> it is a tough chapter because the little girls growing up there was a likelihood they could be raped. >> so sometimes we wonder the interconnectedness of families can be part of the hearing? a sex partner should be celebrated that the denial of common humanity can be subverted by descendents coming together as a family. >> that was a long question.
wonder if the interconnectedness of families i suggest the abuse of taking that should be celebrated but if the denial of human on - - common humanity that is shockingly present can be subverted by descendents coming together. terrific questions. >> it will take work and outreach and that my cousin moved the history in the same way and believes that we should all come together for the whole truth of our family background and to recognize the healing.
>> how do you feel about president madison now? any difference than before your research? >> i allowed myself to be angry with him yes. it's only different that i have clarity from that. because he knew it was wrong. and used one of the enslaved women but the thing he did not do so i lost that to the ancestor. >> so have allowed myself to be disappointed in him as well. >> there are so many stories that people can look forward to.
wine of the slave poisoning his master with the great fortitude it took for newly emancipated slaves to establish themselves. your great-grandfather in the armed riot in cedar creek over the right to vote and of course so much more about the journey you go on. before we close, there were so many names left out of the official record and things you just want to put out there for the people listening. >> the first thing i want to put out the first family african ancestor from africa. we talked about corine and jim
and emmanuel, jim's son. and they had a ton of children and that generation may great-grandfather james and john and i could go on name all eight of them. and my beloved grandfather and then the rest. >> i appreciate you sharing part of that story tonight and we just got our lovely note from connie that you just
mentioned she said this is a real story i'm proud to be her cousin i would love to see her and other madison and then to talk about the history thank you so much for joining us tonight it is a pleasure. >> thank you for having me i thank you for tuning in tonight we will air the edited version. step into the virtual author talk series and then learn about the new novel ask again on tuesday the 12th. the new them are called stray you can see a full video of the other virtual author