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Madison Family Collection


In 1944, Attorney Madison filed a voting rights class-action suit on behalf of Black Montgomerians.


Parents: Elijah and Frances Madison

Children: Willie (1870), General (1874), Carrie (1881)., George (1885), Arthur (1888-1957), Sylvester (1889), David (1890), Lawrence (1891). The Madisons reared and cared for 2 nieces and 1 widowed sister.

The Patriarch Elijah, known as Eli, was born in Alabama in 1839. According to family lore, Eli was a very strong man, physically and intellectually. He had a strong sense of self-worth and self-respect. Stories abound that his slave-master trusted him, yet feared him. Eli was seldom if ever lashed. His slave-master sensed that Eli would just as sure kill him and suffer his own death than to endure any lower level of indignity, given that he was already forced into slavery by law.

At the end of the Civil War (1865), Eli and his wife Frances, along with half-brother Killis Marshall and Gadson Draw and their wives, and his friend Frank Felder, migrated to Hunter Station in Montgomery County (Highway 31). It is rumored that Eli was a "man of means," for he literally took to heart and hand the promise of "40 acres and a mule" when he left the slave plantation.

After a short stretch in Hunter Station, the families moved to the King Hill Community to be closer to town. After a few years, the families, especially the Madisons, had accumulated enough capital to buy a plantation. King Hill offered only small to medium plots of land. The families were ready to move on.

The Flatbush Community, Northeast of King Hill going towards the city of Wetumpka, had several plantations for sale. The families pooled their resources and bought the May’s Plantation in 1880. In just 2 years, 1882, Eli paid in full to Mr. and Mrs. James and Molly May $2,380.00, and received a warranty deed for the conveyance of 560 acres of land.

Six of the 10 children were born on the plantation, now renamed the Madison Park Community. The family home where the children were born still stands. Eli built a church, Union A.M.E Zion Chapel, a school and a community center.

The Madison family was a tight-knit unit. Eli imbued in all of his children that there were a part of W. E. B. DuBois’ "talented tenth." Education was key, not for self, but as a tool to pass knowledge onto subsequent generations of the family and in the community as a whole. However, the teaching profession was not the only career he stressed. He told his children, "We need doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, bishops and every other profession that will uplift the race."

Eli saw no contradictions in the philosophies of Dubois and Booker T. Washington. With the same breath he instructed his children, "And we need farmers, builders, shop owners and businessmen to maintain that standing of the race."

All of his children, girls included, tilled the fields, and his boys labored in the gin house and the mills. The children enlarged and enhanced the park by clearing brush. All the children worked in the store to learn wholesale and retail skills in buying, stocking and selling.

Arthur, the fifth child and birthed in the home, heeded his father’s instructions with tenacity. A precocious student, Eli obtained a scholarship for Arthur to attend Bowdoin College in Maine. Upon graduation, Arthur received a scholarship to study law at Columbia University in New York City and earned his degree June 5, 1918. He set up his law practice in Harlem, New York and became legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Attorney Madison spent long vacations in his beloved community. While there he established " Citizenship Classes" for adults and youth and encouraged all to register to vote. He married Mary Loveless, sister to the undertaker proprietor, John Henry Loveless. ( A school in Montgomery was built and named in his honor in Montgomery in 1936.) The couple had one daughter, Josephine. Mary preceded him in death.

In 1944, Attorney Madison filed a voting rights class-action suit on behalf of Black Montgomerians. Several of the plaintiffs were school teachers. The defendants were county and state officials. When the teachers were threatened with firings, 6 of the teachers told authorities that they had not authorized Madison to bring a suit on their behalf. He was arrested, held in jail on a $2,500 bail, convicted, fined $500 and disbarred in the state of Alabama.

Attorney Madison returned to Harlem, New York and resumed his law practice. He was a national "cause celebre" because of his efforts to gain citizenship rights for southern Blacks. Father Divine and his Peace Mission Enterprises had hired Madison as legal counselor in 1931, but in 1945, Father Divine made him, because of his courage to stand up to southern bigots, his personal and financial advisor, managing millions of dollars.

Attorney Madison continued to press for equal rights and opportunities for Black people in general, and specifically for Madison Park Community residents. He filed in Montgomery Probate Court (1944) a petition that restricted ownership and residency in Madison Park to "the (n)egro race in perpetuity." His 1945 attempts to provide sewer and running water, and with $90,000 in hand, for Madison Park were thwarted by the white authorities.

In the 1950s, Attorney Madison became blind due to glaucoma. His grandson was his companion and guide. In 1957, Arthur fell down a flight of stairs in his Harlem, New York home and died as a result of the injuries. Attorney Madison was shipped home to Madison Park, where he is buried in the Family cemetery.

Inventory fo the Madison Family Papers, 1880-1957

Processed by: Dr. Gwendolyn M. Patton
Date Completed: June 2001
Copyright 1997
H. Councill Trenholm State Community College. All rights reserved.

Madison Family Papers, 1880-1957
Descriptive Summary Administrative Information Scope and Content Note
Biography Index Container List

Descriptive Summary
Title: The Madison Family Papers, 1880-1957
Collection Number: Barcode # 402938
Creators: William Winston and Josephine Madison Burton
Size: .45 cu ft
Repository: H. Councill Trenholm State Community College

Administrative Information Provenance
Gifts of Winston and Burton

Scope and Content

The Madison Family Papers concentrate on the fifth child, Arthur Madison (1888-1957), of the Patriarch Eli Madison Family. In 1880, the Patriarch and three other families bought the May’s Plantation, located in Montgomery County, Alabama. The Madison Family by 1882, owned 560 acres outright. The plantation with a gin house, grist mill, saw mill, shingle mill, a park and a store was renamed "Madison Park." The Patriarch built a church, Union AMEZ Chapel, a school and a community center. Arthur, the 5th child of 10 children, earned a law degree from Columbia University and moved to Harlem, New York. On one of his many extended visits to Madison Park, he filed the first voting rights test case on behalf of Black Montgomerians in 1944. For his efforts he was jailed and disbarred from practicing law in Alabama in 1945. He returned to Harlem, New York, continued to practice law and served as legal/business advisor to Father Divine (George Baker, Jr. b.1879–d. 1965). The papers are divided into the following series: Bio-Interviews by Attorney Madison’s daughter, two great nephews and one great niece that include news articles and photographs; newspaper accounts of Voting Rights Case and Disbarment; Madison Park, comprising of copies of deeds, "Negro Only Covenant," community development and efforts to incorporate as a city; and Relatives who became lawyers, medical doctors, teachers, bishops and ministers.

Container List

Family Interviews about the Madison Family and Arthur Madison

Box 1 (#402938)

Interviews conducted by Archivist Gwen Patton with Attorney Madison’s daughter, Josephine "Sunshine" Madison Burton, great- nephews Dr. John Winston, MD and William Winston, and great-niece, Dr. Hagalyn Seay Wilson, MD. There are accompanying hand-written notes by Attorney Madison, news articles about his life, family photographs and copies of his degree from Columbia University.

Period (circa 1940-1950s) News articles from Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama, Pittsburgh Courier, Weekly Review, Cleveland Post and Chicago Defender covering the Voting Rights Case and Disbarment.

Madison Park, comprising of copies of deeds and conveyances, Master’s Thesis by Dr. H. Councill Trenhom on the Madison Park Community, news articles about the development and controversy of Madison Park, and A Century of Negro Progress in Montgomery City and County: 1863-1963.

Relatives, Drs. Hagalyn Seay Wilson and John Winston, Attorney Mahala Ashley Dickerson and friend, Father Divine.


  • Burton-Madison, Josephine
  • Dickerson-Ashley, Mahala (Esq.)
  • Father Divine
  • Flatbush
  • H. Councill Trenholm
  • Harlem, New York
  • Hunter Station
  • Madison Family Papers
  • Madison, Elijah
  • Madison Park
  • Madison, Arthur (Esq.)
  • May’s Plantation
  • Union AMEZ Chapel
  • Wilson-Seay, Hagalyn (M.D.)
  • Winston, John (M.D.)
  • Winston, William