James Madison's Montpelier slave descendants to reunite

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Every time Bettye Kearse steps foot on former President James Madison's plantation, she feels like she's coming home. She has spent much of her adult life wondering about her family's saying, one passed down for generations: "Remember your name is Madison."

Kearse, a pediatrician, plans to join about 100 other descendants of Madison's slaves at Montpelier this weekend to share their stories and collect DNA samples that may piece together their history.

The reunion is one of a series of events commemorating the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, America's first permanent English settlement.

"Majority of the people that lived and worked here were the slave community," said Peggy Vaughn, Montpelier's spokeswoman. "To interpret the history correctly, we have to know what we're talking about."

The investigation into Madison's past echoes the one into the nation's third president, Thomas Jefferson. Descendants of Sally Hemings, one of his slaves, claim Jefferson fathered at least some of Hemings' children.

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