Well before graduate school, I’d found that being a descendant of African slaves had a significant impact on my life. Being a descendant of a president, however, did not. I came to resent the reverence for James Madison the directive demanded. He was a Founding Father and a president, but he had also owned people. And I did not believe he should be excused merely because, at that time, having slaves was the norm among landowners and the wealthy.
It would take me years to articulate this to myself and then decades to explain to my mother that the saying she revered and lived by echoed with the abuses of slavery.
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