President Madison did not have children with his wife, Dolley. Leading scholars believe he was impotent, infertile, or both. But the stories I have heard since my childhood say that James Madison, a Founding Father of our nation, was also a founding father of my African-American family.
According to the history told by eight generations of my family’s griots, Madison had a relationship with one of his slaves, Coreen, that resulted in the birth of a son, Jim, who was sold and sent away when he was a teenager. Jim was my great-great-great-grandfather.
My earliest recollection of hearing this story was as a five-year-old attempting to stand still while my mother worked on the dress she was creating for me. Every time I had a piano recital, she sewed me a new dress, and every time she sewed for me, I became bored and fidgety. I dreaded the fittings more than the performance itself. The performance lasted little more than two minutes; the fittings took forever.
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