tv Bettye Kearse The Other Madisons CSPAN May 29, 2020 7:17pm-8:01pm EDT
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of this screen and there's others at the atlanta history center. we will have q&a on your screen i'll try to get to them, as many as them as time will allow. doctor bettye kearse as a retired physician, geneticist and nominated essayist for the other madison is her first book it follows a nearly 30 year quest to confirm her lineage. it was called roots for a new generation, bettye kearse thank you so much for being with us. >> i'm very happy to be part of this program. >> host: most of us grow up thinking up as james mattis, wrote the first draft of the u.s. constitution and bill of rights, what did you think? what were you told about him growing up. >> guest: well, i was told mostly what everybody else was
as you said he was an important figure in american history. but, i was also told that he was my great, great great, great grandfather through his relationship with one of his enslaved cooks, her name was karine. so he was my ancestor. >> and reminded of this, always remember you are a madison you come from african slaves and a president, what did that mean to you as a child. >> to me it was set clear expectations. it was intended to be a force of inspiration. i was reminded i have this great man and my family history and that also i had slaves in my family who were
to be admired as well there is a lot to live up to a lot was expected of me. >> and your mother, she carried stories of your lineage told to her by her father and his father and before when they'd been enslaved eight generations going back to the african woman who was kidnapped from her home country and brought to the united states. this is the tradition of the green out in the feminine. tell us a little bit about that tradition and its role in your family. >> guest: the tradition goes back thousands of years. probably before the birth of christ. the men and women who maintain entire cultures and the history of those cultures with the values.
forever. i'm sure it is still going on today. primarily it is a tradition of oral history. >> so this oral history carried throughout your family and your mother, she told the story to others there is a slide presentation she gave to historical and genealogical organizations in the 1980s junior brother call it the black madison lecture circuit. she in fact handled this role to you and she gave you the box as you call in the book what was in the box? >> guest: in the box was all kinds of things there were birth certificates, death certificates, marriage license, lots and lots of photographs. it was amazing hand stitching
old fashion hand smoking i don't even know that is, it was a very fancy sort of embellished clothing for little girls. there were slaves senses with newspaper articles, if it's anything that could be gathered up and put together. i like the letters they're very important. between family members so what it mean for you to receive this box? >> guest: it's a big responsibility. my mother hadn't warned me all use that word warned me this was someday going to be my responsibility to take care of this box. and its contents and should be
the one responsible for making sure the stories did not die and would be passed on to generations. so was sort of overwhelmed. not sure really how i should handle it. so it's a little story that contributes to my concern and that is my mother is the one who created the box before that time my grandfather, my great-grandfather kept their documents and whatever they could find inside the family bible. my grandfather lost it during a move from one small texas town to another and he was devastated identify should try to make sure that didn't
happen again and put them away or should i tell these stories to as many people who were interested stories around those things are so important. they were not just my family stories are stories of enslaved people and these people represented other african-americans. there is a message of stress and persistence and love i thought was important to share. >> i want to hear a little bit more about ambivalence this section on a path of discovery, many, many miles
covered many obstacles a lot of emotional freight let's say your mother had a reverence for the madison family gave pride, meaning and strength for what for her had been a really hard life. i love to hear some of your feelings about that what it meant for you. you had more ambivalence about being connected with this family i'm up product of the 60s. during the civil war movement the black power movements in importantly i felt licensed to take on some of the more uncomfortable sides and not try to hide them try to talk about them head on.
very different by the way my mother looked at it. she was very proud of being a relative of president madison and somewhat reinsured and comforted by having something special and her family background. that set her a part from those who were experiencing the really difficult parts of being black in america. >> she group however with the very strict mother. just to reiterate that people if they have questions for the doctor you can estimate q&a type of into the q&a section it's on bottom of your screen. we will try to get to them.
you're alluding to hitting these things head on and this all began with mandy she was kidnapped from africa as a teenager, purchased by james mattis senior, he sexually assaulted her, she bore his child, coreen was her name, james junior became president raped coreen who bore his child to this not only rate but incest in there. ruby was really. [inaudible] and it was courageous with the conversation you had about it head on. can you talk about that conversation? >> guest: i remember this pretty well i was sitting on the floor of the bunch of papers around me when i decided to call her. i was thinking did she really recognize what this was?
i called her up and i said juno president madison's father was a rapist? she said really? i said yes. that's what they were. she was quite uncomfortable with that term. she preferred the term visiting. we think that meant for her to framing it like that? >> call it visiting her to listen to me? stomach either. i'm interested in that dynamic this is a part of what you confronted is not just be notifying historical records but it's your own family, the history they had carried with them. in a way, you are batting at a sacred cow.
>> yes i was the first to take up the bats. not just my mother, but my grandfather who actually passed down the story who always use the term visiting and her mother explained to her what that meant and when my mother would go to someone else like her sister my aunt lara they were uncomfortable with talk about what actually happened in a straightforward way. they would refuse to talk about it and were angry if approached. with those kind of questions. >> you however are going to get that the unvarnished truth about the parts of the saga that had gone unchallenged. the official history as james mattis did not have any children with his wife the
famous hostess dolley madison bridge she had a widow and a son but you destroy your families generational details and the life of james and careened son jim it was sold off as a teenager at dolley's urging. can you give us a little recap it's complicated in a life but a sense of what you heard about his life? speech about jim's life? >> guest: yes, jim was madison and careened son. about the time he was born they came to live with them out mount pelee are. a valet was assigned to be his wetnurse. the story goes that coreen put
jim on one breast and the baby in victoria on the other breast and nurse them together. over the years it became very good friends. when they were in their teens, they fell in love with each other. and dolly found out about it. she promptly sold him and he never saws mother or father or victoria again. >> host: at the heartbreaking story one of just many heartbreaks. you're going to try these
unnamed unrecorded what happened to jim? in 1992 you made your first of many trips to montpelier this is the madison family plantation it's a now historic sites travel to portugal, africa, and like many slaves whose lives were not considered important enough a lot went cold but there were some real breakthrough moments for you would you care to share any of those? >> in terms of finding jim? in terms of whatever you discovered along the way. there are so many little gems as you're wandering through this maze to try to find more about your family. >> it was certainly difficult, often nays were not recorded, often families were separated, sold apart which is what happened to jim. i tried but it was very difficult to find out who had purchased them, where exactly he had gone, and the trail
picks up with his son immanuel so there is documentation of him does not have his name we know who it was because of who owned him. he was owned by jeff who was famous in tennessee and famous later in texas when they moved there. said they'd hoped to trace it back from immanuel to jim. they didn't quite do it. i want to say we talked about me and my cousins. one of my cousins has passed the three of us were doing research together. one unfortunately passed. but my cousin, sean harley
came across an 1830 slave census. it sent american census because the man he found his name was shadrach madison. and so a number of reasons that shadrach actually could not have been jim so that's what's trying to do and verify he was born in virginia about the same time they lived in the same place they were originally owned by the same family. they had a name shadrach. then they were freed, they chose the name madison.
stu went that speaks to always remember you are a madison. c1 thank you for writing this important book, what are your thoughts regarding those who are trying to rewrite the narrative around slavery as they portray that as? >> they are deniers. in some ways are not on like lara who did not want to talk about the painful parts. this is a part of american history. it happens, it's a very important part because this country would not have been what it is without the millions of slaves who did the work to make it what it is.
>> host: that comes across clearly in your book the role of slavery as an emotional support and user support in other ways. and you, he went to portugal research the origins of the slave trade and twisted moral codes that were adopted to rationalize the business which was very profitable why take on physical and emotional experiences? what did they add to your sense of the family story? >> guest: for me i didn't have any idea of what to my
enslaved ancestors had gone through. i felt like i was missing part of myself. so i looked for them looks for mandy and all the laces you named i looked for coreen and mount pelee are i literally walked in their footsteps just a profound experience. and so doing just an inkling of what might ancestors had gone through. it's how they help shape me. i learned about their incredible strength, there enters strength and their balance their sense of hope. the sense of values that they had that passed down to all of
their descendents. true for every family not just mine. >> host: if you have questions for the doctor down the bottom will get to him soon as possible see you just threw yourself in with the strips you went on also to confirm the family lineage and the stories you had heard not just through historic records but through dna and enlisted the help of doctor bruce jackson. you approach the national society of madison descendents about authenticating your families dna. where did that leave you? >> guest: it look like it would be a -- doctor jackson
emphasize again again be careful with the genealogy. if you compare your dna to the wrong person they can say see i told you. so the national society did identify one man with genealogy. who will initially was able to to submit in the dna setting. but what happens shortly after that there was a big article they just didn't want to get involved in the brouhaha. since then i haven't been interested in that.
i've been feeling more and more the proof other african-american families have to do. but that's not what's important part. >> that fasten he been asked many, many times would it matter to you if it you did get proof that you were not a descendent of james mattis you came to an interesting place with that i'd love to hear more about that. >> guest: that will be great for the book. [laughter] it's about much more than marketing. it's really about understanding who you are and
it's about honoring and respecting the place knowing you inherited a lot of their strengths. and you have an opportunity to contribute just as much as they did to this country. so it's about knowing who you are. >> host: do you have any sense of the role, faith or religions or what faith and religion played with your slave ancestors who must've been strong people inside and out how has that faith had your life? >> guest: my enslaved ancestors were strong christians as most slaves were.
but their sense of community is an important component to our values. it's passed down to all of us including myself. my daily sense of who i am. >> guest: thank you for sharing your family story have you been in touch with other? the sally hemmings family descendents tell me more about that. >> guest: yes on two occasions on one at the university of virginia. i would say maybe three years ago i can't remember exactly. there was a symposium at the university i was with
descendents of james monroe i slaves that works at the university that's owned by the university. and later, just last year, i was out montpelier is in another town there is the descendents of monroe, jefferson, and washington. so yes i have met them. and stayed in contact. >> guest: you've built so many relationships in this journey, several with the people who work at mount pelee year as well as many, many others. we'll talk about this is the most elite of elite americans
called the father of the constitution, student of the enlightenment preserving the sacred fire of liberty. it's the very foundation of american's national because -- get this is the man who had the political compromise to count enslaved africans as humans. you do so much to flesh out the people that are in your slave descendent line rate how do you make sense of these contradictions in james mattis? my other question is does it even matter who he was? >> guest: doesn't matter who he was? that is a good question. it's a tough one. i think it does matter. it hard to go about his faults
the greatest a few freed slaves lived up to the ideals. but he didn't. he didn't free a single slave. because he couldn't. >> host: i'm sorry i cut you off. >> guest: george washington freed the slaves he did free some slaves. thomas jefferson had slaves was probably direct descendents. james mattis did not free a single slave. the closest he came to that was his slave, billy who went to philadelphia whose contract
madison sold to a northerner knowing that eventually or assuming any way that eventually he would be freed and he was freed. madison himself did not for him. so like jefferson and all of them they lived with strange dichotomy of having all of these lofty ideals, wonderful ideals but not truly being able to live up to them. i think probably it's how we do things here. you might flesh out the wrong they knew what was wrong. it's very hard for them to
do. what positive or negative reactions have you received from your book? >> guest: so far billy had positive reactions. [inaudible] >> host: i'm sure there will be controversy of people disputing the account and dna test for sally hemmings family. >> guest: writes, right. >> mentioned building relationships that montpelier and you mention speaking at workshops and symposia there. re-examining historical narratives and how they are formed, who is included, there is a real history that they want to contextualize how we remember whether it is that story of sally hemmings and
monte and the history center has been contextualizing a lost cause civil war monuments. how do you think, how would you like your family story to be reflected at montpelier? >> guest: well, mount pelee of the first time i went there all telling was in 1992. because they were -- the day i arrived for the first time, i was able to see an excavation site which was the south kitchen. they were looking for the truth. they were trying to learn who they were, what they did, how
they played a role in james mattis' life at montpelier. and what their contributions were to the country they were already doing that. and they have continued to do that. my relationship with them, they are my friends they have always been supportive and really interested in my story. they want the whole story. and one of my aunts, careens famous up on the wall were other slaves are listed. as i was involved in the exhibits it was called mere distinction of color, which is from james mattis, and that exhibit is something i feel all american should see. because it puts the role of slaves in perspective.
and it talks about their role at mount pelee year how they were dealt with in the constitution the fact they were people and not just commodities. i would like to say there were millions of slaves they were millions of individuals. the visit to mount pelee or encourages you to see that. >> host: what does that mean to have the fuller more inclusive picture of american history? >> guest: it is the whole story it is the real story. it's the voices that weren't heard.
african slaves were not able to speak for themselves but they left their mark everywhere. from new york city they built all over the country in boston and everywhere i have lived this is the mark of the slaves there. see when question from jen the story of your family is amazing. your message of what it's like to be black in america. what would you like people and women in particular to take with me story? >> guest: women in particular? yes what was like people and women in particular to take away from your story? as i was writing the book i could not imagine a black woman reading this book and
seeing they had things to. i hoped that they would pass down those same qualities that they would tell their own children about those qualities. there's a chapter chapter in the book it's called visiting. that is the chapter that is about rape. one specific message i have wanted to convey was that rape could happen in any setting. one setting within marriage. so i did want to approach ray that to all women marriage is not necessarily have the
possibility being sexually abused. stay when there's a lot for readers to read into about the sexualization of african-american women which i think. >> guest: that's a tough chapter. little girls growing up there is a likelihood that they could be raped. and there is nothing that their mothers could do about it. >> host: here's a question right think it about. [inaudible] i wonder if the interconnectedness of families can be part of the healing part of course i don't just suggest taking vulnerable women's a partner should be celebrated but i wonder what the common denial of humanity that shockingly among us can be subverted by descendents coming together as a family? your thoughts?
>> guest: that was a long question. [laughter] >> host: that was a long question. is it disappeared so i can't. reporter: it. oh, oh the about the interconnectedness is part of the healing instead of the dividing of the way think of history or the binary way i hope i'm not putting words in someone's mouth. within families? so it came back up. the miracle of the moderators that came back up. i think of the vibe i sometimes wonder if the interconnectedness of families can be part of the healing. i don't suggest the abusive taking vulnerable women a partner should be celebrated but wonder if the denial of common humanity that is even now shockingly present among us can be subverted by
descendents coming together as a family? terrific question. >> guest: well, yes. it will take work and outreach. i have had the pleasure of reading. [inaudible] she is the descendent of madison she has shared with me glad she's my cousin. histories the same way and she believes looking at the whole truth of our family backgrounds.
but to recognize the healing of coming together will definitely bring. >> host: howdy feel about president madison now? any different than before the research? >> guest: i am allowing myself to be angry with him. it's only different when i have clarity on that. yet he used one of his slave women did not prevent dolly from selling jim. i have lost that connection to an ancestor that i want to know.
so i've allowed myself to be disappointed in him as well. >> host: we have to close it there there so many stories people can look to one is not being killed in this rich fortitude it took for newly emancipated slaves to establish themselves, your great-grandfather and armed riots in cedar creek in 1889 over the right to vote and of course so much more about the journey you go on to find all of those things out. i wonder, before we close, there were so many nays left out of the official record your family, nays you just want to put out there and share with us tonight all the people listening? >> guest: the first name i want to put out his mandate. mandate was the first family and my families first african
ancestor in america. we have talked about ways, we talked about jim's, we mentioned immanuel was one of jim's sons, they had a ton of children. they were fortune most of them are able to stay together. there are some who either died or were sold off but in that family, that generation might great-grandfather mack and shelby and giles and young and james and john and i could go on in name all eight of my beloved and the rest of them. [laughter] >> guest: wonderful family
wonderful family. he will be appreciated sharing part of that story with us tonight so just got a lovely note. [inaudible] she says this is a real story and i'm proud to be bettye kearse cousin i would love to see her another madison descendents is i assume we could come together at mount pelee are and talk about her history. she said i will never be mad at you. : :
you can see a full video and watch video of our other virtual author events at atlanta history center.com. thank you so much. really a pleasure. >> having lived through a loss of confidence in our institutions, a wave of cynicism that has left us unable to trust what we are told by anyone who calls themselves an expert, it becomes very difficult for us to rise to a challenge like this. our first reaction is to say, no, they're lying to us, only in it for themselves, and a lot of our national institutions have got to take on the challenge of persuading people again that they exist for us, that they're here for the country. >> sunday, june 7th at noon eastern on "in depth," live coverage with author and american enterprise institution color yuval levin. he has written the great debate and the