Governor John Langdon’s Home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This article was originally published A few years later, Ona gave birth to a second daughter, Nancy, and then a son. When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital, after a brief stay in New York. Benjamin Chase. In fact, as Erica Armstrong Dunbar writes in her book, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, Oney would have been in the minority as a enslaved woman in Philadelphia; fewer than 100 slaves lived within city limits in 1796. The couple went on to have three children: Eliza, Will, and Nancy. It tells about a very determined Ona Judge and very sneaky Washingtons. Over a month after the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member filed for divorce from the famed attorney, a […] Ona Judge was the daughter of Andrew Judge who was from England. Ona Judge was born as a slave into George and Martha Washington's household. Kathleen Van Cleve teaches creative writing and film at the University of Pennsylvania. Ona Judge was born around 1773. Ona Judge (c.1773—February 25, 1848), known as Ona Judge Staines after marriage, was a light-skinned, heavily freckled and slight of build slave on George Washington’s plantation, Mount Vernon, in Virginia.. In August 1799, Washington made one more attempt to find and recapture Ona Judge. The exhibition will furthermore profile 18 other former slaves. She revealed that her life in Portsmouth had been difficult. Finally, Ona may have worried about Law’s questionable reputation. While the newspapers did not print the interviews verbatim, the quotes are rare examples of a formerly enslaved person describing their experiences in their own words. When a reporter asked why she chose that moment to escape, Ona said “she was determined never to be her slave,” referring to Eliza Custis.8 Eliza had earned a reputation among the enslaved women for being highly volatile and erratic—dangerous qualities in a slave owner. She worked exclusively for Martha Washington in every capacity of a personal maid and was shocked and horrified that Martha would callously give her away to her incredibly selfish and nasty-tempered granddaughter as a wedding present! Ona likely made her way out of Philadelphia immediately to avoid being recognized by Washington’s contemporaries.14 In one of her later interviews, she revealed that she had escaped on a vessel commanded by Captain John Bowles, who left Philadelphia and eventually made his way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Thank you to Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar for her work on Ona Judge. One of the latest examples of this happened at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Ona, West Virginia. It would have made her a fugitive in the eyes of the law and she likely would never be able to see her family again. Tobias Lear Account Books, June 6, 1792; April 1, 1793; June 24, 1793. That encounter with Oney (who also went by Ona) was more than 20 years ago. She walked out of the house and quickly rushed to safety. She found lodging within the free black community, which was accustomed to aiding fugitive slaves, and supported herself doing domestic work, one of the few opportunities available for women of color. Ona worked as Martha’s enslaved housemaid for the next seven years before running away. He recommended that Washington secure a lawyer’s services and direct future letters to “the Attorney of the United States in New Hampshire.”20, With Whipple unwilling to assist further, Washington turned to Burwell Bassett Jr., Martha Washington’s nephew. He was one of George Washington’s preferred tailors, eventually creating the blue uniform George wore when he was named commander in chief of the American forces in 1775. The Massive, Overlooked Role of Female Slave Owners. After she became too old for physical labor, Ona herself lived in poverty, relying on donations from the community. Her two daughters, Eliza and Nancy, were sadly forced into indentured servitude; both died before their mother. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1977), pp. Members of the free black community helped her get aboard a ship commanded by Captain John Bowles, who sailed frequently between Philadelphia, New York and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Ona married John Staines, a seaman, on Jan. 14, 1797, and settled in Portsmouth. Late the following year, when the federal capital moved to Philadelphia, the presidential household moved with it. In 1845, Ona Judge was interviewed by an abolitionist newspaper. When he was just 11 years old, George Washington inherited 10 slaves from his father’s estate. The baby Eliza grows into a toddler and one day when Ona's husband Jack is out at sea there's a knock at the door. This book puts a face and a story to that of early enslaved people and makes it clear that enslaved people always desired the ability to make choices for themselves. by the Rev. She revealed that her life in Portsmouth had been difficult. October 21, 2019, Next Considered the last “Founding Father” president, James Monroe was born in 1758 into an affluent, slave owning family in Westmoreland County, Virg... Andrew Johnson’s close association with Abraham Lincoln, as both his vice president and his successor, often disguises Johnson’s own... Uncovering the lives of enslaved people poses many challenges. Though the gesture was far from meaningless, it didn’t go far enough. In September 1798, he sent his nephew, Burwell Bassett, to bring Ona Judge Staines back. Frustrated, Washington wrote directly to Whipple asking him to return Ona by force.19 A quiet abolitionist, Whipple was deeply uncomfortable with this sort of violence. I knew the Washingtons had slaves but I just didn't know how sneaky they were to work around their 'human property'. At age 10, she began serving as a personal maid to Martha Washington at the Virginia mansio… Ona took the opportunity to share her thoughts on the institution of slavery, proclaiming, “that she never received the least mental or moral instruction, of any kind, while she remained in Washington’s family.”30 She also criticized the Washingtons’ piety, saying she never saw or heard any indication of “piety and prayers” while she was enslaved. Later, Ona Judge claimed that after Washington’s death, the family never bothered her again. It was common practice for slave owners to give their enslaved workers nicknames that ended in”y” to subtly infantilize adult men and women. Moll, the enslaved nanny for Martha’s grandchildren, did not usually join them out of the house, so she likely needed fewer pairs of new shoes. Thousands of Images covering the History of the White House, Official White House Ornaments, Books & More, https://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/slavery/slavery-database/, https://founders.archives.gov/?q=Correspondent%3A%22Washington%2C%20George%22%20Correspondent%3A%22Whipple%2C%20Joseph%22&s=1111311111&r=2. Judge had been among a group of slaves held by the estate of Martha Washington's first husband, Daniel Parke Custis. All Rights Reserved. George Washington to Joseph Whipple, 28 November 1796. READ MORE: The Massive, Overlooked Role of Female Slave Owners, In the spring of 1796, when she was 22 years old, Judge learned that Martha Washington planned to give her away as a wedding gift to her famously temperamental granddaughter, Elizabeth Parke Custis. When he married the wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759, she brought more than 80 enslaved workers along with her, bringing the total number of enslaved men, women and children at Mount Vernon to more than 150 by the time the Revolutionary War began. The shoe purchases are especially telling. Benjamin Chase. 248-50.. While Ona lived in Virginia, she was surrounded by several family members. Upon her death, they were to be divided among the Custis heirs. In 1789, the new federal government was located in New York City. Ona Judge Plots Her Escape. Letter to the editor, The Liberator, January 1, 1847..As quoted in Slave Testimony, Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies, John W. Blassingame, ed. For example, in June 1792, she attended the theater; in April 1793, she saw “tumbling feats” (probably acrobats); and in June 1793 she went to the traveling circus.5 Click here to learn more about the enslaved households of President George Washington. Ona Maria Judge Staines is the protagonist of Erica Armstrong Dunbar ’s Never Caught.Born into slavery at George and Martha Washington ’s Mount Vernon estate in 1773, Ona was, as a teenager, assigned to a position in the Washingtons’ home, where she worked as Martha’s seamstress and personal “go-to girl.” When George Washington ascended to the presidency, bringing Martha along … Upon arriving in Portsmouth, Bassett made himself comfortable at Senator John Langdon’s home.21 Bassett then went to the Staines’s house and knocked on the door. Ona Judge Staines lived with her husband and their three children until Jack’s death in 1803. Ona’s father was an English indentured servant who had worked at Mount Vernon. In 1773, Ona Judge … But Ona certainly met her father and likely had some relationship with him given his extended stay, which was not always the case for enslaved children. Ona Maria Judge was born around 1774 at Mount Vernon. … So said former slave Ona Judge during an interview in 1845, long after she had obtained her freedom, and long after her owners, George and Martha Washington, had tried to get her back. Built c. 1824-1826. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images). 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