THE OTHER MADISONS

The Other Madisons is a remarkable contribution to American history, documenting the process by which an oral tradition preserves, with exquisite fidelity, an important social record, in spite of, or perhaps in response to, suppression or neglect by exclusion, and racism.

In this documentary, Bettye Kearse traces her ancestry to Mandy, her family’s first African ancestor enslaved on American soil and who became the property of President James Madison's estate in Virginia, Montpelier. Kearse's research, her encounters with cultural institutions, and her travels to Ghana, Portugal, Virginia, and Texas provide the contextual background of this genealogical journey. The family mantra: "Always remember—you’re a Madison. You come from African slaves and a president" has now achieved a new level, that of the documentary film experience. 

During the process of making The Other Madisons, the filmmaker relied heavily on Kearse’s homonymous book and her own testimony at length, while also reaching out to experts on Montpelier’s enslaved community: Matthew Reeves, archeologist; Lynn Rainville, historian; Cristian Cotz, historian, Kelley Fanto Deetz, archeologist, and Elizabeth Chew, Chief Curator at James Madison's Montpelier. 

 

"The Other Madisons" is currently in production and expected to be released to the general audience and academic institutions and their libraries in February 2021. HD|30 min. produced by Soledad LIENDO, written and directed by Eduardo MONTES-BRADLEY.

LEFT: Elizabeth (Betsey) Madison, born into slavery, was Bettye Kearse’s great-great-grandmother. RIGHT: Mack Madison, Kearse’s great-grandfather and the son of Betsey and Emanuel Madison. (Courtesy of Bettye Kearse)

© 2020 | Heritage Film Project

Bettye Kearse

The Other Madisons