The slave named Israel adopted his surname of Jefferson after the Civil War and had been a friend to Madison Hemings when both were childhood slaves at Monticello.
The mass media in Ohio and a few other union loyal states before and during the war had developed a generation of journalists and writers who gave us a knowledge of slavery that 20th century scholars for the most part chose to ignore in favor of ante-bellum claims that all plantations were like those of Washington and Jefferson. The fact of the matter is that even the best of them like Monticello where slaves had the gift of life, their liberties and pursuit of happiness were not sufficient for generating better generations of African-Americans. We do not blame Thomas Jefferson for the cursed institution that he was born into. As a slave owner, he was far better than most other slave owners ever were or dared want to be.
His grandsons, like George Wythe Randolph inherited the institution that would utterly ruin their lives in a cause proven to be immoral and unable to exist without the brutality that created it. Thomas Jefferson had noted in his famed "Notes On The State of Virginia" that slavery had a bad effect on children like his grandson and their playmates such as Israel Jefferson. For one, the Civil War was a curse, but for the other a blessing. To the best of our knowledge, Madison nor his siblings displayed envy or hatred toward the numerous Randolph, Eppes and other offspring of their generation that they played with daily on the great mountain-top of a great man and mind in human history. But, Madison like his father must have known the tragic ending was a new beginning for his Randolph cousins.
It is a challenge for researchers to learn about the lives of the people who came up out of slavery. We do not why each one decided which identity to use, but their choices did matter a lot in the stories that would be told and recorded about their journeys to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We suspect that Madison died a broken hearted man, having lost his two sons, countless cousins, both white and black, in addition to his beloved wife Mary McCoy.
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