Bettye Kearse: The Other Madisons: co-presented with Collected Works Bookstore

28 August 2021 
form & concept | 435 S Guadalupe St Free

form & concept is proud to present, in collaboration with Collected Works Bookstore, an all-day event with Bettye Kearse, author of the acclaimed memoir The Other Madisons: The Lost History of A President’s Black Family, winner of the International Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society Book Award for Nonfiction-Autobiography and an Outstanding Book Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.


Join the author for a screening of “The Other Madisons,” a 37-minute documentary directed by Eduardo Montes-Bradley that follows the author’s journey with testimonials by Matthew Reeves, archeologist; Lynn Rainville, historian; Cristian Cotz, historian, Kelley Fanto Deetz, archaeologist, and Elizabeth Chew, Chief Curator at James Madison’s Montpelier. Staggered showings are scheduled at 12pm, 1pm and 2pm, followed by a panel discussion with Kearse and Collected Work’s Cecile Lipworth at 3pm. A book signing of The Other Madisons will cap off the daylong celebration at 4pm. Visitors can purchase a copy of the book at the gallery any time on Saturday.



12pm | 1pm | 2pm




“My family has a credo,” says Bettye Kearse, “which is ‘Always remember, you’re a Madison—you come from African slaves and a president.’” As her family’s eighth-generation griotte, a traditional storytelling role established thousands of years ago in West Africa, Kearse was given the even weightier request from her mother to publish a book on her family’s—and the nation’s—truth. “I think there were three reasons that she asked me. I like to write, always did like to write. Second reason is that my mother was concerned that as we get further and further away from the hardships of slavery and Jim Crow, that we’d just become comfortable with our lives and forget our ancestors. The third reason is that, and she didn’t quite put it this way, she felt that our story was important enough to be recognized as part of America’s story.”


Kearse’s thirty-year tale, spanning from Ghana to the Montpelier plantation to her present-day reckoning and reflection on America’s painful and heinous past, is a rich testimonial to oral tradition, ancestral tracing, and, above all, a love letter to the remarkable resilience of Black peoples. “My first ancestor in America was a stolen woman who was called Mandy. I never really heard her voice, but I heard her message. I knew what she wanted me to know and share, and I wrote these things down in her voice. Those are the best parts of the book, in my opinion, because I knew what I was supposed to write. That, I think, is really powerful: that she speaks for herself.”


Bettye Kearse is a retired pediatrician. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Herald, River Teeth, Zora, TIME Magazine, the New York Times, and the anthology Black Lives Have Always Mattered and was listed as notable inThe Best American Essays 2014. She lives in New Mexico.