Bettye Kearse: “The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President’s Black Family”

Julia Robinson/Washington PostBettye Kearse, James Madison, enslaved cook named Coreen.

We paid a virtual visit to Bettye Kearse, a retired pediatrician with a Ph.D. in Biology and a B.A. in Genetics.

In her new book, The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President’s Black Family, Bettye traces the story of her family, the descendants of an enslaved cook named Coreen and — according to oral tradition — President James Madison, the architect of the Constitution of the United States.

The book is based on more than 30 years of research, and on the storytelling of eight generations of her family’s griots and griottes — traditional conservators of oral history. Bettye was appointed her family’s griotte in 1990.

Smithsonian Magazine named The Other Madisons one of “The Ten Best History Books of 2020” and one of “Five New Nonfiction Books to Read While You’re Stuck at Home.” Kirkus Reviews called it “A Roots for a new generation, rich in storytelling and steeped in history.”

We hope you enjoy our Q&A, a video, and related articles with Bettye Kearse at The Conversation.

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