The Guardian

The Other Madisons review: an astonishing story of a president's black family

In extraordinary times, as statues fall, Bettye Kearse has written an extraordinary book. It contains lessons for all Americans
A visitor watches a video presentation at James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange county, Virginia. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

As Virginia tobacco planters, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, the first, third, fourth and fifth presidents of the United States, had much in common. Between them, over a generation, they owned more than 1,000 human beings.

All denounced slavery as the nation’s “original sin”, predicting its inevitable abandonment. In power, however, none acted to upset or undo the status quo. Each declared that with slave liberation, white prejudice and black grievance would make harmonious coexistence of the races “impossible”. But Jefferson is to have fathered children with , a black woman he owned, and , Madison and are reputed to have done the same,

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