Monday, February 20, 2017

African American Slavery & The First USA President George Washington

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides an excerpt of a dailykos article that highlights the book Never Caught. The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.

Included in that article is a YouTube video about Erica Armstrong Dunbar's book.

The content of this post is presented for historical and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the courage of Ona Judge and thanks to Erica Armstrong Dunbar for writing the book Never Caught. Thanks also to Denise Oliver Velez for writing the dailykos article about this subject which is excerpted in this post and thanks to the producer and the publisher of the embedded video about this book.

From: "Ona Judge Staines: The black woman who escaped from and outwitted George and Martha Washington" By Denise Oliver Velez, 2017/02/19
"A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked it all to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom. 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. In setting up his household he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary, and nine slaves, including Ona Judge, about which little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire. Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, the few pleasantries she was afforded were nothing compared to freedom, a glimpse of which she encountered first-hand in Philadelphia. So, when the opportunity presented itself one clear and pleasant spring day in Philadelphia, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs. At just twenty-two-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property...

The Slave Who Escaped George Washington

History in Five, Published on Feb 8, 2017

Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave, risked it all to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom. Erica Armstrong Dunbar reveals it all in Ona Judge's harrowing history, NEVER CAUGHT.


Armstrong Dunbar was interviewed recently by Ibram X. Kendi, associate editor of Black Perspectives, assistant professor of history at the University of Florida, and author of the 2016 National Book Award winner for nonfiction, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America...

Ibram X. Kendi: What are the principal findings of Never Caught? What do you hope readers take away from reading it?

Erica Armstrong Dunbar: Never Caught introduces one of the most understudied fugitive slaves in America. At the age of twenty-two, Ona Judge stole herself from George and Martha Washington, forcing the president to show his slave-catching hand. As a fugitive, Judge would test the president’s will and reputation. The most important man in the nation, heralded with winning the American Revolution, could not reclaim the bondswoman. Ona Judge did what no one else could do: she beat the president. Judge was never caught. The book introduces a new American hero, an enslaved girl raised at Mount Vernon who, once exposed to the ideas of freedom, was compelled to pursue them at any cost. This was a woman who found the courage to defy the President of the United States, the wit to find allies, to escape, to out-negotiate, to run, and to survive. Judge’s life exposes the sting of slavery and the drive of defiance. Ona Judge left behind the only existing account/narrative of a fugitive once held by the Washingtons. It appears to be the only fugitive account from any slave in eighteenth–century Virginia. This book changes the traditional narrative about runaways and adds to a growing literature about the lives of fugitives. It is a unique project in that it examines the life of someone who escaped slavery before the era of the “Underground Railroad.” It forces scholars to reimagine the institution of slavery and more importantly, it prompts scholars to reimagine black freedom in the early decades of the nineteenth century.

Themes such as gender, race, and work are central to Never Caught. However, it also examines the slippery area of fugitive status as well as the dismantling of slavery throughout the North. This project will prove valuable to historians who engage in work centered upon the era of the early republic and to those who engage in the broad interdisciplinary fields of Women’s Studies and Africana Studies. By focusing upon the life of Ona Judge Staines, I am able to unpack the serious questions and themes surrounding family and kinship networks, marriage, health, childrearing, and economic security for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century African Americans. Never Caught examines all of these issues through the lens of an enslaved runaway."...

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  1. Here's a comment from this post's featured dailykos article about the book Never Caught:

    Treg, Feb 19 [2017]
    "Thanks for the great diary. Any histories that emphasize the humanity of the African Americans who were enslaved in the U.S. are most welcome. The resurgent depictions in our society of "happy, well cared for" slaves are false and beyond offensive. On the other side of the spectrum, depictions of slaves as solely two-dimensional passive victims of oppression without lives of their own are also untrue and unhelpful."

    1. A related thought:

      One article that I read about the historical Frederick Douglass was that he valued photography as a means of documenting African Americans. As a result he agreed to have his picture taken a number of times. However, he never smiled for those photographs because he didn't want to appear to support the meme that Black people were happy in (and about) their conditions.

      Click "The Self-Resurrection Of Frederick Douglass (Examples From The Douglass - Tubman 2020 Twitter Page)" for a pancocojams post about the fictional Frederick Douglass.