Dr. Bettye Kearse has been working with staff members at James Madison's Montpelier since 1992 and I have had the honor and pleasure of knowing her since 2015. On June 25, 2020, Dr. Kearse and I did a virtual book discussion of The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President's Black Family as part of Montpelier's Virtual Book Club. We conducted the conversation on Zoom and had close to 100 participants. We structured the presentation as a conversation where I asked open-ended questions and Dr. Kearse talked about different aspects of the book. Dr. Kearse presents the story of her family history and her own journey with that story with skill and grace. She is an eloquent speaker and her story is profound and absorbing. After the discussion Dr. Kearse fielded numerous questions from the virtual audience and later we received many complimentary emails and comments about the program. We also sold a number of books!
Executive Vice President and Chief Curator, James Madison's Montpelier
Your words, your warmth and vulnerability, your passion all brought this story so vividly alive. You did a fantastic job of connecting with us while telling the story.
National Museum of African American History & Culture Attendee
Our seven-member book club recently had the privilege of including Bettye Kearse in our Zoom book club discussion for The Other Madisons.
Bettye began by sharing a wonderful orientation about herself, her calling, and why she wrote the book. After just a few minutes, she seemed like a longtime friend. We asked her about the challenges of writing the book, finding her voice, and researching her family history. Bettye’s approachability made us feel like every question we asked was original and welcome. Even when our questions were not completely well articulated, she answered with thoughtfulness, and understanding of what we were trying to ask.
The Other Madisions should be assigned reading for everyone because of the way Bettye wrote about slavery and its implications for past, current, and future generations. Every individual can relate to family history.
Thanks to Bettye’s presence and willingness to share her family story, we can start to understand how generations of African Americans have been silenced and excluded.
Our book club highly recommends inviting Bettye to join your discussion. She is truly inspiring.
WOWs (Wonderful Women of the Woods) Book Club
Including the author in our book club discussion of "The Other Madisons" thoroughly enriched the experience of reading a book that touched, and informed, us all. It added another layer of authenticity to what is already a compelling and true family story and, yes, American story.
Listening to Bettye read from "The Other Madisons" made history come alive. She answered questions honestly and openly; she graciously welcomed all feedback. As she recounted her experiences researching and writing this book, we felt like we were accompanying her on her quest. And, our conversation helped us gain insights into who Bettye is as a person: brilliant, determined, compassionate.
We were grateful she was willing to spend the time with us. Thank you, Bettye. "The Other Madisons" is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the origins of racism in our country.
Newcomers' Club of Santa Fe
Bettye, what a thoughtful, moving, beautifully written and delivered presentation. You literally painted pictures with words, which is an art. That said, the slides and the photos themselves added so much—always relevant and often spectacular.
Beginning and ending the presentation with your visits to Montpelier provided symmetry and a perfect framework. I'm glad you included the story of the NYC African American Burial Ground, information that I'm sure was new to many attendees. Its history encapsulated and illustrates so many important points relevant to your own story, and you wove them in seamlessly.
Your descriptions were direct, and vivid, yet eloquent. American history, as taught in schools, is badly skewed and always has been. There need to be voices, like yours, stating the truth of things so that we can't look away from the reality, for example, that Montpelier was for many a prison.
Again, congratulations, Bettye.
National Museum of African American History & Culture Attendee
The historical significance of having Dr. Bettye Kearse, author of the extraordinary book "The Other Madisons," lead our very first Diva Docs book discussion club was not lost upon us--and the COVID-19 pandemic was not going to keep us away. Dr. Bettye Kearse was responsible for creating this community of Black Women Physicians--the Diva Docs-- in the late 1990's.
We were honored to have "one of our own" come and speak to us about her first book and honestly answer our questions. We gathered by Zoom one Wednesday evening in July to hear the author, a gifted writer and master of the griot oral tradition, narrate a passage from her book. As she spoke, we were transported to the land of our African ancestors and into the life of a young woman before she was a slave.
During this time of racial re-awakening in our American history spurred on by violence against Black Americans, "The Other Madisons" reminds us of the sacrifice and bravery of our African ancestors. If they could make it through the horror of slavery, surely, we can and must carry on the fight for justice and peace.
Philomena A., MD, MPH
Diva Docs Book Club
Last night our neighborhood book club had the pleasure of meeting with Bettye Kearse to discuss her book, "The Other Madisons". It was a rare treat for our book club to hear from the author of a book we were discussing. Bettye provided so many insightful comments regarding the process she went through to grow into her role as her family’s griotte and to document her journey along with her family’s history.
We thoroughly enjoyed listening to her read a couple of her favorite passages. It was enlightening to engage her in conversation about the topics addressed in the book and their relevance today.
Lake Highlands Literary Society
As owner of the Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, I want to congratulate Bettye Kearse for her riveting book "The Other Madisons: The Lost History of A President's Black Family". Meticulously researched and clearly presented, it is a fascinating personal story of a heretofore little known search for the black descendants of America's Fourth President.
Ms. Kearse is a compelling speaker as well and her virtual appearance at our store last spring was a highlight of the season. It has been visited many times since it was first posted.