|NW Quadrant, East of Rock Creek, African American, Federal Government Employees, Radicals, Also of Interest|
Cutts-Madison House, 721 Madison Pl.
NW, Lafayette Square, DC.
Jennings is the author of A Colored Man's Reminiscences of James Madison (1865), the first memoir of a servant's life in the White House.
Born into slavery, Jennings was owned by the Madisons, and traveled with them to Washington while still a young boy, to serve in the White House when James Madison was elected fourth US President. His mother was another Madison slave, and his father was reported to have been a white man named Benjamin Jennings, an English trader living in Chesterfield, VA. While living in the White House, Jennings witnessed the British occupation of DC in 1814 (during the War of 1812). He returned to Virginia with his master at the end of his term of office, and was present at James Madison's death in 1836.
Jennings moved back to DC with Dolley Madison, living with her in Lafayette Square. When she became impoverished, she sold off her remaining slaves, including Jennings, who was sold first to an insurance agent, Pollard Webb, in September 1846, then ten months later to Senator Daniel Webster, who freed Jennings, but made him continue to work for him to pay off his freedom at the rate of $8 a month. In a remarkable act of charity, Jennings later contributed funds toward Dolley Madison's support.
Jennings was an activist for the abolition of slavery. In 1848, Jennings helped plan a major escape of 77 slaves on the schooner Pearl, a plot that was ultimately unsuccessful. Jennings later worked for approximately 15 years as a laborer at the Pension Office of the Department of the Interior. He married three times, and three of his sons fought for the Union in the Civil War. He died in the home he owned at 1804 L St. NW (now razed, in the Farragut Square neighborhood) at age 75.