The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President’s Black Family

Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781328604392. $28. BIOG
As Kearse was growing up, her mother told her many times, “You’re a Madison. You come from African slaves and a president.” Historians have always presumed that President James Madison was infertile and had no children, but Kearse has done a remarkable job of revealing another side of this story. Kearse became the next family griot, one of the storytellers that had passed on this story through the generations, starting with Mandy, an enslaved woman. According to the family legend of the Black Madisons, Mandy fathered a daughter, Coreen, with James Madison, Sr., and President Madison fathered a son, Jim, with Coreen. Kearse has spent decades researching Madison’s family history and her own genealogy to prove this connection, uncovering remarkable stories of enslaved and free African Americans in Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas. Since the one direct male descendant of James Madison’s brother will not do a DNA test, Kearse acknowledges that this story cannot be proved definitively, but that does not change her sense of family identity.
VERDICT A moving, beautifully told story that adds to our understanding of Madison along with African American genealogy and oral history.

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