Who We AreLearn more about the Montpelier Descendants Committee
On June 14, 2019, the Montpelier Descendants Community convened to establish an organization to honor the sacrifices, resilience, and brilliance of our ancestors who contributed immeasurably to the founding of this nation.
We are committed to cultivating an environment of gratitude and respect for the memory of enslaved peoples near and far, but our focus is here at Montpelier and surrounding areas, where our community of ancestors lived and worked.
Our goal is to promote a better understanding of their lives based on an inclusive history of American slavery—and a better understanding of how their lives informed ideals of universal liberty enshrined in the Constitution, yet denied to them.
Scholarly Advisers to Montpelier Descendants Committee
Dr. Michael Blakey
NEH Professor, Anthropology and American Studies
The College of William and Mary
Director, Institute for Historical Biology
Director, Remembering Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom Project
Meet the Chair
Chair of the Board
Montpelier Descendants Committee
James French was elected as the founding Chair of the Montpelier Descendants Committee in 2019 at a Juneteenth gathering of descendants who assembled to establish an independent organization founded on the principles of the rubric. Soon thereafter, he was invited to serve on the Board of The Montpelier Foundation, where he serves on the Executive Committee and
various other committees.
James’ dual role as the founding Chair of the MDC and member of the Board of Directors marks a significant milestone in the descendants movement. His is the first instance of a representative of a descendants community joining the Executive Committee of a major presidential home site to represent their interests.
James brings governance, financial and entrepreneurial experience to these roles. After graduating from the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia, French worked for Citigroup in West and Central Africa. He worked in North Africa for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Technical Assistance, and sat on corporate boards for the International Finance Corporation, in South Africa. Mr. French currently works as an entrepreneur expanding financial services to underserved communities across Africa and other emerging economies using cutting edge financial technology (fintech).
James French’s late mother, Carolyn French, was a local and national activist, a public historian, and a co-founder of the Orange County African American Historical Society.