Wednesday, February 3, 2010

BHM: Escaping Slavery, Oney Judge

As the white (single) mama of a Black and Latino son, it's important to me to tell him of the strength of his people. We've enjoyed lots of books about people escaping from slavery. A few are true stories.

The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington's Slave Finds Freedom, by Emily Arnold McCully, tells a fascinating bit of history. The young Oney Judge was Martha Washington's seamstress, and at 16 had to leave her mother behind when George Washington assumed the presidency and the Washingtons traveled from Mount Vernon to New York City. A few years later they moved, along with the nation's capital, to Philadelphia. Although the Washingtons had slaves with them there, there were also many free Blacks in the city, and a law that said that an adult slave living there for 6 months must be freed.

When Oney found out that upon Martha Washington's death she would be given to Martha's son-in-law, she knew she needed to escape. Free Black friends helped her arrange passage on a ship, to New England, and one day she simply walked away. She lived in New Hampshire, and still had to worry about the possibility of being taken back. That would have been a public relations problem for George Washington - it didn't happen. She married and had three children. (Here's more information.)

Tomorrow, the story of a slave who mailed himself to freedom.

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