New Members will Advance the Foundation’s Goal of Achieving Structural Parity

The Montpelier Foundation (TMF), as part of its commitment to restructure its Board of Directors to fully represent the descendants of those enslaved at James Madison’s Montpelier, is pleased to announce that effective November 16, 2021, four new members were elected to serve on the Board. 

On June 16, 2021, the Board of Directors of TMF voted to adopt structural parity with the descendants of the plantation’s enslaved persons, an unprecedented decision that provides a model for historic sites. The vote followed a resolution passed by the Board on May 27, 2021, that stated, “The Board of The Montpelier Foundation affirms its commitment to collaborate with The Montpelier Descendants Committee (MDC) to achieve structural parity with descendants at all levels of the organization.” As an entity separate from TMF, the MDC serves as the sole representative of the Montpelier Descendant Community, as that community is defined by the Montpelier Descendant Rubric (2019). The vote paved the way to achieve TMF’s goal of achieving structural parity, meaning that there should be a Descendants’ presence on the Board equal to that of others on the Board. 

The newly-elected TMF Board members bring an impressive breadth of expertise to the existing Board. 

  • Dr. Beverly Colwell Adams is a retired Associate Dean, Assistant Dean, Office of the Dean of the College, UVA College of Arts and Sciences, and Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology at UVA, whose research interests include the examination of microaggressions as one of the contributing variables to the decline of physical and mental health in strong black women. 
  • Mary Elizabeth Alexander has spearheaded several real estate investment partnerships, served on multiple boards in Charlottesville, Scottsville, and Albemarle County and, as a descendant of Paul Jennings (James Madison’s enslaved manservant), authored several children’s book manuscripts and four manuscripts for novels based upon her family’s long history in and about Washington, DC.
  • Dr. Bettye Kearse, Ph.D., M.D., a retired practitioner in general and developmental pediatrics, provided care to the children of Dorchester, MA, an inner-city Boston neighborhood, for 30 years, working at Carney Hospital for six years, maintaining a solo private practice for 15 years, then serving as a staff pediatrician at Neponset Health Center for 10 years. She is the author of the award-winning memoir The Other Madisons: The Lost History of A President’s Black Family and multiple essays, commentaries, and personal narratives.
  •  Dr. Drew Lanham, a conservation and environmental advocate and environmental equity activist, holds an endowed chair as an Alumni Distinguished Professor at Clemson University and is the author of The Home Place - Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature and numerous other creative works and opinions. 

According to Gene Hickok, Chairman of the Board of TMF, “When Descendants are represented through this type of structural change, our Foundation will offer a prominent, new model of public engagement for museums and historic sites nationwide. Montpelier will be a place where a more complete story can be told, in equal partnership and full collaboration with Descendants. We are making these changes now because this is long overdue, and we want to remain a leader in the national movement to interpret slavery at like institutions. We are excited about the potential opportunities this will bring, such as access to new audiences, greater appeal in recruiting staff, and forging a national reputation.” 

“Our movement toward parity on our Board will enrich the stories we tell at Montpelier,” said Roy Young, Montpelier’s President and CEO. “In order for those stories to be told fully and authentically, the Rubric provides for the full partnership of the Descendant Community in the Foundation’s board of directors, research, and programming. Our commitment to telling the stories of the Constitution and James Madison remains unchanged. We are now accelerating the commitment to tell the stories of the enslaved, and how descendants of the enslaved, inspired by the protections of the Constitution, resiliently endured and prevailed over decades of discrimination. This is what we mean by ‘whole truth history.’”