About the Author
I was born in Tucson, Arizona and grew up in Northern California. I have a B.A. in Genetics from the University of California at Berkeley, a Ph.D. in Biology from New York University, and an M.D. from Case Western Reserve University. My husband and I have a daughter, a son-in-law, and two grandchildren.
In 1990, I became the griotte for my family when my mother brought me the box of family memorabilia, I asked, "Why now?" She answered: “I wanted to give you plenty of time to write the book.” The time had come for the story of my African-American family to take its place in recorded history. To write the book, I traveled around the United States and to Ghana, West Africa, and Lagos, Portugal.
The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President's Black Family took some thirty years of research and writing and rewriting. It is both a personal family history and an homage to millions of silenced, invisible African Americans. This memoir is an intimate work of narrative nonfiction that discovers, discloses, and embraces a more inclusive and complete American story.
In recounting the struggles, perseverance, and contributions of eight generations of my family, The Other Madisons illustrates that enslaved Africans possessed hope and inner strength, by which they survived, and talents, by which they contributed mightily to America. Then they passed down these same qualities to their descendants. It is my dream that The Other Madisons will inspire those descendants to nurture and use their own inner strengths and talents not only to fulfill their hopes but to make contributions to our country and the world.
In my pediatric practice in Boston, I performed well-child care, treated a variety of acute and chronic illnesses, and empowered mothers and fathers to be confident parents. Among my most rewarding experiences as a physician were my travels to China on behalf of Wide Horizons For Children, an international adoption agency; and service on the board of directors of From Roots to Wings, a community-based organization for grandparents and the grandchildren they are raising.
I enjoy writing; reading; traveling; gardening; watching movies; attending art exhibits, dance concerts and live theater; and working out at the gym—especially Pilates and Nia.
My Publications Include
- "Our Family Tree Searches for Branches," the Boston Herald
- "Destination Jim Crow," River Teeth (This personal narrative was listed as notable in The Best American Essays 2014 and nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize)
- "Mammy Warriors," Black Lives Have Always Mattered (2Leaf Press, 2017)
- "I Am a Descendant of James Madison and His Slave," Zora, March 2020
- "I Feared My Enslaved Ancestors Had Been Dishonored in Death," TIME Magazine, March 2020
- "The Black Descendants of President Madison," Literary Hub, March 2020
- "America's Hidden Stories: The Other Madisons," ImageMakers & Influencers Magazine, May 2020
- "Slavery on Wall Street," ImageMakers & Influencers Magazine, May 2020
- "How Henrietta Lacks Became the Mother of Modern Medicine," Mental Floss, July 2020
- "The 1787 Constitutional Convention and the 2020 Murder of George Floyd," OpEdNews, August 2020
My research for The Other Madisons received extensive media coverage in the Washington Post.