Montpelier is excited to announce the appointment of James French to its Board of Directors of The Montpelier Foundation. French brings a wealth of finance and entrepreneurial experience to Montpelier. He was moreover elected as the Founding Chair of the Montpelier Descendants Committee (MDC). As an independent entity from The Montpelier Foundation, the Descendants Committee advocates for descendants of ancestors who were enslaved at Montpelier and the surrounding region, and also for those with a deep commitment to the important work around challenging dominant historical narratives. French’s dual role as the Founding Chair of the MDC and member of the Board of Directors marks a significant milestone: This is the first instance of a representative of the descendants community being placed on the board of a presidential home site to represent their interests.

"I am excited for the opportunity to be more deeply involved in an organization that is taking steps to tell more holistic and honest narratives about America, past and present," commented French. "I have ancestral ties to the area and think that Montpelier plays a critical role in ensuring that the voices of the historically-marginalized are not only heard, but celebrated."
French brings over 20 years of financial experience focused on corporate governance, Fintech, entrepreneurship, and financial inclusion to Montpelier. After graduating from the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia, French led a financial engineering and Treasury team for Citigroup in West and Central Africa, where he built a large regional trading and investing portfolio, and pioneered local-currency capital market transactions. After leaving Citigroup and publishing on African capital markets, French was hired by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Technical Assistance to be a Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Algeria, which was seeking to develop and diversify its economy.

The International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank Group, hired French, as part of its prestigious Independent Directors Program, to sit on the board of one of its largest banking investments in Africa. As an independent non-executive director, French oversaw the complex restructuring and business rescue of a leading regional micro-finance bank based in South Africa.

French was awarded the 2018 Munich RE Financial Inclusion Ideas Campaign for his Fintech startup, Anansy. As a recognized thought-leader and entrepreneur in Fintech, French has been invited to moderate and speak at high profile events, including the inaugural Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg in 2018, and the Africa Fintech Summit of 2019 in Washington, D.C.

 "Montpelier is committed to telling the full story of James Madison, and at Montpelier we strive to engage visitors in 'whole truth history'," said Montpelier Foundation Board Chair Dennis Kernahan. "This requires a forthright assessment of the legacy of slavery along with exploration of the principles of democracy and the promise of liberty enshrined in Madison's foremost accomplishment, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. James' perspective is a valuable addition to the board as is his considerable executive experience."
French is a descendant of Governor James Barbour and an enslaved woman from the Barboursville Plantation. His late mother, Carolyn French, was a local and national activist and co-founded the Orange County African American Historical Society with Montpelier descendant, Rebecca Gilmore Coleman. French resides in Washington, D.C.