Elizabeth Dowling Taylor

  • Aired:  01/04/12
  •  | Views: 13,944

Author Elizabeth Dowling Taylor tells the story of Paul Jennings, who served as one of James Madison's slaves and ultimately purchased his own freedom. (6:46)

>> WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT, THE FORMER

DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION AT JAMES

MADISON'S MONOPEELIER AND A

FELLOW FOR THE HUMANITY, HER NEW

BOOK IS CALLED "A SLAVE IN THE

WHITE HOUSE: PAUL JENSEN AND THE

MADISONS.

PLEASE WELCOME ELIZABETH DOWLING

TAYLOR.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING

HERE.

IT'S CALLED "A SLAVE IN THE

WHITE HOUSE."

YOU KNOW, IT IS SO INTERESTING

TO SEE A BOOK LIKE THIS.

IN OUR CURRENT SORT OF FOUNDING

FATHERS FETISH THAT WE ENJOY,

THEIR INFALLIBILITY, THEIR

ULTIMATE WISDOM THAT WE ALWAYS

LOOK BACK TO THEM, WE FORGET

THAT THE INDIVIDUAL CREDITED

WITH REALLY THE FATHER OF OUR

CONSTITUTION HAD 100 SLAVES.

>> WELL, YOU KNOW, THERE WERE

EIGHT EARLY PRESIDENTS WHO OWNED

SLAVES DURING THEIR TENURE IN

THE WHITE HOUSE.

>> Jon: WHY DO YOU KEEP

APOLOGIZING FOR AMERICA?

IT'S SHOCKING TO ME BECAUSE THE

IMAGE WE HAVE... BOY DOES DOLLY

MADISON NOT COME OFF WELL IN

THIS BOOK.

MY IMAGE OF HER WAS ALWAYS THE

COURAGEOUS SAVIOR OF THE WHITE

HOUSE IN 1812.

THEN SHE WENT ON TO MAKE THOSE

DELICIOUS CAKES.

[LAUGHTER]

SHE WAS PROUD OF HERSELF FOR

RESCINDING THE OFFER OF FREEDOM

TO PAUL JENNING.

>> WELL, SHE ACCOMPLISHED MUCH

AS FIRST LADY, BUT SHE WAS A

SLAVE OWNER.

HER HUSBAND BEQUEATHED THE 100

SLAVES TO DOLLY.

JENNINGS HAD EXPECTED THAT HE

WOULD BE FREED BY MADISON'S

WILL.

WHEN THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN, DOLLY

HAD A TERM IN HER WILL THAT SHE

WOULD FREE PAUL, BUT INSTEAD SHE

SOLD HIM, AND THIS IS AFTER

MADISON DIED AND WHILE DALI WAS

BACK IN WASHINGTON, BUT PAUL'S

FAMILY, HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN,

WERE OWNED BY ANOTHER MASTER, SO

HE WAS SEPARATED FROM THEM AND

HE DETERMINED THAT HE NEEDED TO

RAISE HIS OWN PURCHASE PRICE.

SHE SET IT AT $200, AND THAT'S

WHEN HE WENT TO SENATOR DANIEL

WEBSTER, WHO LOANED HIM THE

MONEY.

AND THEN JENNINGS WORKED FOR

WEBSTER TO PAY IT BACK.

>> Jon: THAT'S WHY I'M SAYING

WE HAVE TO GET BACK THE OUR

CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES.

[LAUGHTER]

BACK TO THE FOUNDING FATHERS.

CAN YOU IMAGINE... I JUST... AS

YOU READ THESE STORIES, YOU JUST

IMAGINE NOW IN THE CURRENT MEDIA

ENVIRONMENT, YOU KNOW, MADISON

GOING ON ONE OF THESE NEWS SHOWS

AND THEM READING THEM LIKE

YOU'VE WRITTEN HERE, YOU KNOW,

THE SADDEST SLAVERY OF ALL IS

BEING VICIOUS FREE BLACKS WHO

KEEP THE MINDS OF OWN CENTERS A

STATE OF PERPETUAL SUSPICION,

FEAR AND ANGER AND YET YOU ALSO

WROTE THE CONSTITUTION IS.

THAT A FLIP-FLOP?

>> THAT'S AN ABSOLUTE FLIP-FLOP.

HE WAS A COMPLICATED MAN, AND HE

KNEW HIMSELF THAT SLAVERY WAS A

BLOT ON OUR REPUBLICAN

CHARACTER.

>> Jon: WAS HE... YOU KNOW,

ISN'T "THEY WERE COMPLICATED

MEN" AN EXCUSE FOR IN THAT AREA

OF THEIR LIVES, THEY WERE

MORALLY COWARDLY?

>> WELL, YOU KNOW, WHEN I

APPROACH A BOOK LIKE THIS, MY

PARTICULAR OBJECTIVE IS NEITHER

TO DEFEND NOR TO DENOUNCE.

I REALLY WANT TO TELL PAUL

JENNING'S STORY.

>> Jon: YEAH, THAT'S NOT GOING

TO FLY IN THIS ENVIRONMENT.

UNFORTUNATELY I'M AFRAID YOU'RE

GOING TO HAVE TO BE A LITTLE

MORE PARTISAN AND PERNICIOUS IN

YOUR WRITING.

THE AMAZING THING IS THE STORY

JENNINGS HAD TO THEN GO WORK.

ONCE HE WAS ULTIMATELY FREED AND

THEN WEBSTER DIED AND FORGAVE

HIS DEBT, HE THEN HAD TO WORK TO

FREE HIS CHILDREN FROM... AND HE

APPARENTLY HAD GREAT AFFECTION

FOR THE MADISONS, BUT FREE HIS

CHILDREN FROM THE FAMILY THAT

THE MADISONS HAD SOLD HIS

CHILDREN TO.

>> YOU KNOW, HIS LIFE WAS A

COURAGEOUS AND DELIBERATE AND

SUCCESSFUL PURSUIT OF THE RIGHT

TO RISE.

SO, YES, WHAT HE WANTED IS A

REASONABLE FACSIMILE OF WHAT WE

CALL THE AMERICAN DREAM.

HE BOUGHT A PIECE OF LAND, HAD A

MODEST HOUSE, MANAGED TO GET HIS

CHILDREN FROM SLAVERY IN

VIRGINIA, AND THEY JOINED HIM IN

WASHINGTON.

AND HE HAD A LOW-LEVEL JOB

WORKING FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF

INTERIOR, BUT IT TOOK EVERY BIT

OF EFFORT IN THE FACE OF GALLING

PATERNALISM AND CONSTANT

DISCRIMINATION TO PULL THIS OFF.

>> Jon: IT'S REMARKABLE.

THE THING THAT NOBODY REALIZES,

HE WROTE NOT NECESSARILY A BOOK,

BUT HE WROTE OF HIS TIME WITH

THE MADISONS.

>> HE'S THE AUTHOR OF THE FIRST

WHITE HOUSE MEMOIR, AND, AS YOU

KNOW, IT'S DERIGGER THESE DAYS

FOR ANYONE WITH WHITE HOUSE

EXPERIENCE TO PUBLISH A MEMOIR.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

AND HE PUBLISHED, BUT YET WHY

HAVE WE NEVER HEARD OF IT?

>> THERE WERE LIMITED NUMBER OF

COPIES PRODUCED.

IT'S BEEN OBSCURE ALL THIS TIME.

MOREOVER, THE TITLE IS "A

COLASHED MAN'S REMINISCES OF

JAMES MADISON.

SO IT'S MORE ABOUT THE GREAT

MAN.

MY STARTING QUESTION WAS WHAT

ABOUT PAUL JENNINGS.

>> Jon: SURE, SURE, WHEN WE

MAKE HIS MANUSCRIPT INTO A

MOVIE, THAT WILL BE CHANGED.

SOMETHING LIKE "THE HELP."

I DON'T KNOW.

THE STORY OF JENNINGS, YOU SPOKE

WITH HIS ACTUAL RELATIVES AND

WERE STUNNED AT THEIR

RECOLLECTIONS OF IT.

IT REALLY WAS PASSED DOWN TO THE

FAMILY, THE STORY OF THIS MAN.

>> IT WAS SO SATISFYING TO TRACK

DOWN AND INTERVIEW HIS GREAT

GRANDDAUGHTER.

YOU KNOW, HE WAS BORN AT THE END

OF THE 18th CENTURY.

SO IN 2008, GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER,

THAT'S NOT MANY GENERATIONS

THERE.

SHE WAS ABLE TO SHARE WITH ME

THE FAMILY TRADITIONS THAT GO

RIGHT BACK TO JENNINGS' TIME.

FOR EXAMPLE, HE USED HIS

LITERACY, IT'S UNUSUAL FOR A

SLAVE TO BE ABLE TO READ AND

WRITE, BUT JEBINGS COULD, AND HE

USED IT TO FORGE PASSES AND FREE

PAPERS FOR SLAVES.

>> IT REALLY IS ONE OF THOSE

REMARKABLE STORIES THAT YOU

CAN'T BELIEVE WE DON'T KNOW MORE

ABOUT.

IT'S A WONDERFUL THING YOU'VE

DONE IN WRITING IT AND

RESEARCHING IT.

IT'S REALLY TERRIFIC.

A SLAVE IN THE WHITE HOUSE.

GET IT.

THE MOVIE ALL R OBVIOUSLY WITH

PAUL GEE MOTI AS MADISON AND...

>> AND WHO HAS JENNINGS?

>> CUBA GOODING, JR., ODDLY

ENOUGH, SURPRISINGLY ENOUGH.

IT'S ON THE BOOKSHELVES NOW.

PLEASE GET IT.

ELIZABETH DOWLING TAYLOR, THANK

YOU SO MUCH.

Loading...