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Explore the Constellation

Clara Bailey Ellis Payne

Women's Voices

Clara Bailey Ellis Payne (1921-2019) wanted to learn more about her ancestors and the history of her community in Orange, Virginia. After decades of research, she compiled more than 70 notebooks of documented history about her family and Orange County, Virginia. She discovered that her family was part of the enslaved community at Montpelier, James Madison’s plantation. She traced her family’s journey from slavery to future lives as teachers, lawyers, professional athletes, and even a Rockettes dancer. Payne donated her research to the Montpelier Foundation and gave several family artifacts to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “with the expressed wish that it will encourage other African Americans to research and know their own roots.”