tv Never Caught CSPAN February 25, 2017 7:00pm-8:20pm EST
we get to bring exciting new historians here but also because it is sponsored by "forbes" who has been a great donor to mount vernon for many years. the mount vernon government association doesn't take any money. it is private and based on people coming to the state. we rely on groups like the ford company who supported since henry ford gave the first fire vehicle to the mansion to keep the house from burning to the ground. it is an ongoing challenge. you are welcome to donate to our fire suppression efforts right now. i would like to welcome you all out here.
we have the discussion of 18th century women and consumers on both sides of the atlantic coming up and that will be led my susan shoal who is the senior curator here. and the first of three michelle smith lectures coming up featuring the british life of america's founding mother on march 30th. that is one you definitely want to sign up for. i met george in london at the benjamin franklin house which is an ex extraordinary house museum there. let's get to the main event. we are pleased to have dr. erica armstrong dunbar from the university of bell delaware with us. you might have seen her feepered in the new york city times and
on many npr programs. she is talking about a very important subject. she received her ma and ph.d from columbia university. she was the inaugural director in african-american history at the library directory. she is the perfect person to a take on the challenge of covering the story of ona judge. [applause] >> good evening, everyone. happy black history month.
here i am. so, first, let me make -- offer a few thank you. of course to dunn bradford who invite sa invited. meechlt i think there is -- invited me. i think there is no better place to give this talk. i would like to thank emily for helping me with arrangements. it has been a very, very busy week. this book just came out on tuesday of last week. and so as an academic, doug said my first book was published with yale university press and this book is more of a set of crossover trade books for a larger, more general audience.
it is a very different experience. one that is rewarding and i am a little tired. tonight is such a pleasure to be here and to be where the story of ona judge's life began. what i will do tonight is talk a little bit about -- i will read from the book and give you a context through slides about -- and to give you a lightning context about ona judge's life and what i wanted to do with there book. 20 years ago, i was doing research about african-american women in the north.
i came across an advertisement for a runaway. an enslaved person who had run from the president's house in philadelphia in 1796. i was sort of caught up looking microfilm but this made me pause. i said who was this person that ran away. she was named ona judge in the advertisement. i thought wait a minute, i don't know this person. that was strub troubling to me because tlis is my area of expertise and i had no idea who this person was. there was something that was compelling about this advertisement. it never sort of escaped me. i said i will come back to this important story.
i am going to try to trace this woman. i need answers. i finished the first book and here i am. it was a lengthy process in working to recover the works of the life of ona. doing this kind of work where the evidence is slim, factual evidence often doesn't exist because people of color, women in particular, often remain outside of the archives chltd i will say there is no way i would have been able to write this book if i had not written my first book. i needed a grounding in order to
be able to write this book about as a woman who is magnificent. when you read this book, you will be blown away by her life. many folks here at mount vernon this is not a new story. you are among a small group of people that know her. i want her name to become a household name like a federick douglas and heriot tubman. the title, never caught, was one of my first choices for the title. i presented it to people at the
publisher and they hated it. they said it gives away the story. and i said yeah, but so dodoes "1 does ""12 years a slavdoes "1 does "12 -- "12 years a slave." this is really a history of how a woman who was a fugitive never found freedom. she was never free. she simply was never caught. i think it is a big distinction. i think what we think about slavery in the south and the north at the moment where the nation is new. that is one of the other things i was really trying to do with this book and that was to allow us to see what the early days of the new country. ona's life gives us the
opportunity to look at early virginia, new york, pennsylvania, and new hampshire. we get to sort of follow her life and look at how this nation is changing, how it is grappling with the issue of slavery, all of these central issues to this new nation and this time we are doing it through a young, black woman who made the choice to runaway. as i said, i will read a bit. i will talk and look at a few slides and we will walk together. spring rain drenched the streets of philadelphia in 1796. weather in the city of brotherly love was often fickle at this time of the year vacillating between extreme cold and oppressive heat. but rain was almost always
appreciated in the nation's capital. it erased the smells of rotting food, animal waste, and filth that permiated the cobblestone roads of this new nation. it reminded philadelphians that the long and pung punishing winter was behind them and spring rain cleans the streets and souls of people. it ushered in optimism and hope and a feeling of rebirth. in the midst of the promises of spring, ona judge, a young black enslaved woman received devastating news. she learned that she would leave philadelphia a city that had become her home. judge would travel back to virginia and prepare herself to
be to her granddaughter. i would introduce you to ona judge. at the age of 22, judge stole herself from the washington's forcing the president to show a slave catching hand. as a fugitive, judge will test the president's will and his reputation. the most important man in the nation heralded with winning the american revolution could not reclaim this enslaved woman. ona judge did what very few others could do: she beat the president. judge was never caught. i normally show this next slide, you all don't need it because we are here at mount vernon, but this is me on the road doing my
dog and pony show, and there are, of course, earlier images but i try to give an image so people have an idea of the mansion house she was at for 16 years. of course, you all were here and don't need this. today, i will introduce what i am calling -- i am calling her a new american hero. a slave girl raised at mount vernon who once exposed to the ideas of freedom was compelled to pursue it at any cost. this was a woman who found the courage it too defy the president, escape, out negotiate, to run, to survive. her story at this point is the only existing lengthy account of
a fugitive once held by the washington at least told from her mouth to interviewers. it is perhaps the only -- virginia, judge's life exposes the sting of slavery, the drive of defiance. she guarded what would become sort of freedom for her every day of her life sever regretting her decision to fight for what she believed to be her right and that was freedom. in 1779, we know washington was first elected president of the united states and traveled to new york, the nation's first capitol. he and martha washington took seven slaves from mount vernon. this is a sketch of federal hall where president washington would
take the oath of office in new york. he would take eventually martha would make her way up to new yo york. they took seven enslaved people from mount vernon and ona judge was one of them. she would be taken from her mother, betty, and her other siblings. i will read a bit from the book to give you an idea of what that moment must have been like. the young ona judge was far from an experienced traveler. the teenager knew only mount vernon and its surroundings and never traveled far from her family and loved ones. for judge, the move must have been similar to the dreaded auction block.
although she was not to be sold to a different owner she was forced to leave her family for an unfamiliar destination hundreds of miles away. judge would have no choice but to stifle the terror that she felt and go on about the work of comparing to move, folding linens, packing dresses and personal accessories, helping with the grandchildren. these were all things that ona judge would be involved in. they were the task at hands and not her place to change or question. judge had to remain strong and steady if not for herself than for her mistress who appeared to be falling apart at the seams.
like martha, judge had no choice about the move. miss washington and ona judge may have shared similar concerns, but of course, only martha washington was allowed to express this content. martha washington was unhappy and everyone knew it. the president's nephew, robert lewis would be aware of it. when he arrived at his estate, things were in disarray. lewis was chosen to escort his aunt and grandchildren to new york but was surprised and a bit concerned when he arrived to find a frenzied and hectic scene. lewis wrote quote everything appeared to be in confusion.
end quote. the manifestation of ms. washington's conflicting feelings. robert lewis described the de r departure as an motional moment for the slaves and the first lady quote after an early dinner, and making all necessary arrangements in which we were greatly retarded it brought us to 3:00 in the afternoon when we left mount v. the servants of the house and a number of field negro came to take leave of their mistress. numbers seemed agitatedand much affected my aunt equally so. betty, ona judge's mother, must have been one of those agitated slaves. not only was she loosing her
16-year-old daughter but also loosing her son austin who would serve as one of the washington's waiters. austin's wife and their children would have joined in the morning. betty watched her children leave mount vernon, a reminder of what little control slave mothers had over the lives of their children. if she found any comfort in that day, it would have been mother and sister were traveling together. austin was holder and male and could look out for his younger sister. still, betty knew that her relationship with her children would never be the same. the washington's would travel to new york and their visit there was relatively brief. they would leave for november in 1790 when the site of the
nation's capitol changed again. ona would go with the washington's and be one of nine enslaved people who traveled to philadelphia. they were going to head south tool philadelphia. the president's house, for those familiar with philadelphia if you go to the liberty bell and constitution hall, the house is actually right there. i will tell you, this is sort of an aside, when i was watching all the pre-election coverage
and there was a speech given by formal president barack obama and hillary clinton it was smack in the middle of this courtyard at independence hall and i am watching the visual with the crowds and what have you and off to the right is where the president house stood. and i'm like she will not let me go. she follows me. february, 1796 brought a palpable unease. her and her enslaved companions treaded lightly around george and martha washington. enslaved individuals moved with caution not knowing what events could sour or sweeten an owner's
mood. for slaves who resided in the same walls with the owner life could be like walking in a land of embedded land mines. breaking a dish, badly timed weather, could alter the disposition of an owner. although the president did not earn the reputation of being a violent or extremely punishing slave owner he did on occasion lose his temper. ona judge went through her daily tasks with a soothe watchfulness attending to martha washington with a care. the seven years judge served her mistress well up north. she became martha washington's closest body slave.
all who the washington's on a personal level were familiar with judge. she often accompanied her m mistress on social calls. the first lady's life was filled with socializing and public events. it is important to realize this relationship between mistress and enslaved person in terms of ona judge it was an intimate relationship. not necessarily in the best of ways but ona was around martha washington constantly helping her with the most intimate of responsibilities; dressing, bathing and combing hair. she heard everything that went on in the executive mansion. judge understood her mistress.
she knew how much martha washington loved her grandchildren. she outlived all of her children and had no choice but to tlook the grandchildren of hope and enjoyment. and although marrying george washington at 27 their marriage led to offspring. martha and george washington welco welco welcomed two of washington's children in the home and raise them up. after they read through the mail on february 6th, the president
received a letter from eliza, her 17-year-old grand daughter informing of her intention to marriage writing of the engagement to thomas law, a british business man who came to america only recently in 1794 and became involved in land development around the federal city. law met eliza who was 20 years his junior. her father was deceased and washington stood in as a s surrogate. the news must have sent the executive mansion into a tailspin. although this was personal business, everyone who lived within the walls of the president house knew exactly what was happening.
george washington writes of this relationship that eliza is entering into. they were question about who this law person was and writes home about the situation. neither george nor martha washington new about the seriousness of the relationship between eliza and law and there was much to be concerned about with this union. law arrived in america with two of his three children both who were the offspring from a relationship with an indian woman. they were biracial. his biracial children and age raised the eyes of the washington. there were concerns she might decide to go back to england and could take her with him. ona judge watched their owners feel their way through the d dram dramatic events of february
1796. martha washington's concerns must have turned to optimism because by the end of the month she announced the upcoming matrimony. she began to think of the union in the best possible way. ona judge had no idea this acceptance of this relationship would begin the unraveling of her life. so they were married on march 21, 1796 and the marriage signaled the beginning of major changes were the washington's and their slaves. judge most certainly knew her time in philadelphia was limited. by the march wedding, close family knew that george washington would not run again
for president. this was no secret in the executive mansion and event al all of their lives would change once they returned to mount vernon. the idea of collecting with loved ones in virginia must have given some of the slaves in the mansion reason to celebrate. judge had lived in the north for seven years. and the thought of return to mount vernon did not settle well. a return to mount vernon was a reminder to judge and her enslaved companions that they were considered the property of another person. after living in a free northern city, this was a difficult concept to swallow.
and i think it is porpt to recognize that ona judge comes to philadelphia as a teenager. 16 or 17 years old and spends these years watching free philadelphia grow. she watched richard allen build mother bethel around the corner, she saw free black men and women selling soup on the street, they were entrepreneurs. it wasn't necessarily easy but she saw freedom. she could almost feel it, touch it, taste it. these were things she would never be able to do in virginia. and then with the marriage of eliza, she realizes that her fate or at least her fate was
revealed. up like the other slaves at the executive mansion, ona would not return to philadelphia and judge would not be around to witness the president's final months in office. martha washington's deep concern for her granddaughter trumped any relationship she may have forged with judge. the first lady made a decision rgs and the term first lady isn't used at this moment. it is not used until later on in the 19th century but i use it as part of this narrative i authored. the first lady made a decision that would help her grand
daughter navigate through the transition of marriage. she would give ona judge to eliza. judge's fate was now in the hands of eliza law, a woman who was approximately the same age and known for having a difficult, sometimes volatile temperature. i show this image because it gives us an idea of eliza and she is a force to be reckoned with. sometimes i think she got a little bit of a bad rap but her family wrote about her temper.
this is something ona judge is familiar with. a shift to the household of the irritable and volcanic eliza. i will read another passage from the book to give you an idea of what that moment was like for her. the judge knew what the future held should she not take the advice of her free black associates. she supposed if she went back to virginia she would never have the chance to escape. once she learned that upon the defeat of her master and mistress she would become the
property of the grand daughter she knew she had to flee. she image imagined her work for the law would begin immediately prompting a fierce clarity for her future and dislike. in an interview at the end of her life she said quote i was determined never to be her slave. her decision was made. she would risk everything to avid the clutches of the new ms. law. judge was well informed and knew her decision to flee was far more than risky but still she was willing to save dog-sniffing kidnappers and bounty hunters for the rest of her life. judge could no longer stomach
her enslavement. she had given everything to the washington's. for 12 years she had served her mistress faithfully and now she was being discarded like the scraps she cut for martha washington's dresses. judge knew that no matter how o obediant or loyal she was to her owners she would never be considered fully human. her fidelity meant nothing to the washington. she was their property to be sold, traded or mortgaged with whomever they wished. this coaxed the freedom out of
judge's mind and she was willing to fight for what she believed to be her right. her decision to run was just the beginning of her liberation. judge had to calm her nerve and suppress or anger as allies completed her escape. judge worked in tandem with the rest of the household as made the necessary preparations for a lengthy trip back. judge stated quote while packing to go to virginia i was packing to go. i didn't know where but i knew if i went back to virginia i should never get my liberty. judge kept her plans a secret making certain not to share information with anyone who lived in the executive
information. -- mansion. she relied on the free blacks who resided out odof the outside of the walls of the washington home. the executive mansion possessed more slaves than other residents judge was the preferred house slave and had to be available at all times for all reasons. only one duty was she exempt. meal preparation. a kitchen staff prepared the meals served to the president and the first family and judge sometimes received a bit of free
time during the afternoon meal and supper. extending the evening to the parlor she could enjoy a little wine and conversation. this could be the only moment judge could use to her advantage. when the moment arrived, she gathered her steel nerves and fled. ona judge slipped out of the executive mansion while the washington's ate their supper. she disappeared into the free black community of philadelphia. although judge makes this decision to leave, i think one
thing i want people to understand about the lives of fugitives is to remember the plan to escape, to leave, was almost always strategic and planned. it wasn't typically a win or emotional. her escape would be calculated. she knew the moment she walked out of the mansion her relationship with the family would come to an end. no longer would judge be the favorite slave. instead she would be fugitive. an ad was placed in the
philadelphia gazette and for a week after her disappearances two newspapers at least as well as the philadelphia gazette, not the pennsylvania gazette. this is moment i tell my students you cannot believe everything you see on wikipedia because they had the add was in the pennsylvania gazette. for a week, they attempted to recapture judge. in the philadelphia gazette we have an ad that describes ona judge and announces to the world she defied the president. ona judge and i contended she was called oni and written about at oni judge in mount vernon and in philadelphia.
i believe it was a dominion of her name and i chose to call her ona which is the name she went by at the end of her life. in this newspaper, a light freckled girl and about 20 years of age. this one officers -- offers are reward and theys this $10 is paid to white or black. this is written in the first ads that occur and that language was taken out. this a free play to the free
mrakt community. they alerted slave catchers to probably escape roudz, the del bear rivedelaware river. she sent a strong warning to anyone who worked on the dock staying all vessels are cautioned against admitting her into them. kits assumptions were correct. judge did escape it city by boat. a combination of preparation, assistance from the black community, steel nerves pushed the woman to began a new life as a fugitive. it is this point in the book where i move from ona judge as
an enslaved woman in virginia and new york and philadelphia to becoming a fugitive and her life changes instantly the moment she walks out of that door. and it begins on a voyage to new hampshire. i will read just a bit. >> the crashing waves of the atlantic ocean hurled saddles and candles from one side of the storage hole to another. the smell of molasses and cough was thick nauseating customers who were not used to traveling by sea. transportation in the 18th century was never easy and travelling by sea could be dangerous. old and poorly inspected ships swept in and out of cities with
torn sales and weathered calking. ona judge had never been on such a massive ship that could carry up to 75 people. they were designed to haul freight but ship captains earned extra money by allowing passengers to ride along. slort river crossings and relatively luxury vessels are what jud came to know but she turned her back on all of that. no now space is minimum and travelers lodged themselves
wherever there was room. this time it was with strange quarters she was sleeping in tight quarters with. some who were traveling home and others who look judge were leaving behind a difficult past for the possibilities of a new future in ports smith. the unsettled see likely forced judge's stomach to send somersaults sending her to look for refuge from nausea on the top deck. the wind cooled her flushed f e forehead offering temporary relief from sea sickness. surly other passengers suffered the same way. hanging their body over the ship releasing the content of their stomachs in the atlantic. every morning the sun lifted itself above the horizon and judge would have looked out
across the ocean thankful to have survived another day away from her owners but still she was terrified. as passengers were throwing quick glances toward the light black skinned people who were traveling alone. she knew the washington's were looking for her and by now a name and bounty probably appeared in many of the philadelphia newspapers. she wondered how much of a reward was attached to her recapture. a thought that sent her eyes to scan the strangers on board. surely none of washington's agents made it to the ship before it left dock street but she would not know this for certain until the nancy reached new hampshire. the beautiful expensive clothing she wore to serve the
washington's was packed away and instead judge would have dressed in clothing allowing her to hide in plain site. she was a hunted woman and would try to pass not for white but as a free black northern woman. ona would have to fight to stay free. the washington's would pursue her for years up until really three months before the president died. so for years, ona had to try to figure out how to remain never caught. i want to show a few of the archival bits i was able to pull while working on this for nine years. the researching and writing took
almost a decade. during my process of researching, i kind of span this moment where digitization was just starting. newspapers, thank goodness are digitized and it sped things up as they went along. this is one of the newspapers i looked through this is a marriage announcement. the judge was pelled incorrectly so it took me a while to find it. but what i find incredible or a couple things this is january of 1797. so she hasn't been gone but what 7-8 months. in that time, she is able to
find a husband. but she didn't go by an ally when she got married and had to report the marriage. this is another scholar for people happy about digitization. this image is an act of her life, her resistance, on the front page was george w. bush g washington's announcement to new hampshire thanking them for being good citizens. we have george washington making this statement to the great people of new hampshire and in the column next to it is his
slave just ran away. looking at the entire document, gives you a better sense for the kind of resistance we see coming from ona judge whether she meant to be that much of a resisting person we don't know. she evaded washington's slave catching acquaintances for the entirety of her life. she managed to build a family for herself marrying, had children, worked as a domestic to the end of her days. although she endured the trials of poverty and fugitive status until her death, judge moved forward.
her life was a difficult one but freedom was worth it. i will show you my last side of the evening. it is a little bit of one of the first interviews that ona judge grants. i will not tell you everything because you have to read the books. we know there is tension and drama while she is in new hampshire.
my grand the older you get the more you are likey to say what is on your mind without a filter. i think we have a little bit of that here with ona judge's interviews. she explains how and why she ran away and why it was important and also that she didn't regret it. she never regretted it. she would spend nearly 50 years as a fugitive. and the children that she had were also fugitives because slavery followed the apron springs of the mother. so the steaks were even higher once ona went to new hampshire and attempted to remain never caught.
for 50 years she was a fugitive in hiding but i am certain she never wanted to be forgotten. with the publication of this book, everyone will now know her name. thank you. so i think we are going to do some q and a and we have to mike are phones stationed on either side of the room. >> were you able to talk to desce descendants and get oral histories? >> good question. how do i say this without giving away part of the story?
the descents don't directly exist but there have been half descendants. i purposely chose not to bark up that tree. this is a record of her half siblings and what happens to them once ona leaves and one of her siblings, a sister who is named philadelphia, i know interestingly. she goes to work and i don't want to tell you everything but
there is a chapter and epilogue at the end that explains po poigently how we have two chafrm v examples of women trying to find freedom. we have ona doing it with her fugitive status and her sister doing it in a different way. philadelphia marries a man and becomes part of a well-known family in washington, d.c. and i will go ahead and tell you that philadelphia does find her freedom. >> i was wondering if you could elaborate more on the free black
community in philadelphia and the ways they assisted her. >> that is a great question on the free blacks in philadelphia in the community and how they came to her aid. i think one of the important things about this story, history, is it highlights the importance of networks and in particular of communities, free people of color, philadelphia in the 1790's was the epicenter of free black life. it outpaced new york, gradual end of slavery began in 1780 in pennsylvania with the gradual abolition law that stated you could only be held as a slave for up to 28 years. we saw elongation of that in some instances but really where ona judge lived was very close to many free blacks. so we have thousands of free blacks living in and around
philadelphia. one thing that is important to note is ona judge never names names. she can not do that for fear of reprisa reprisal. those that helped her broke the federal law. she simply referred to them as free people of color or the colored people of philadelphia. a couple historians including myself believe that richard allen known for creation of philadelphia was likely involved in some way or another in her escape. she was known for assisting fugitives and interestingly enough in the account books held at the philadelphia executive mansion, a week before ona runs off it is noted she was given
money to buy new shoes. smart. you runaway you need new shoes. but richard allen was a chimney sweep and served the household of the president cleaning out the chimneys there. perhaps they interacted. we are not sure. we had a shoe shop in his home as well. he was the sort of jack of all trades. some some of us believe there was some kind of connection between her and richard allen. but we also see outside of philadelphia, outside of seeing this degreeing free population who helped her, the only person she names is james bowels who is a ship master. because she named his name she made it clear in her interview that she was only naming his
name because she knew he was d s deceased what it was clear following the ship details his ship was in philadelphia at exactly the time ona junl ran away and made it back to po portsmith at the beginning of the june. that is how i determined the ship was named the nancy. so clearly the free black community was involved with her and her becoming a fugitive. the same is true in new hampshire. she is very clear she gets help and assistance from the free black population in new hampshire. now the population was tiny. there are more people in mount vern
vernon. i was like portsmith at first and why? and i realized she said she didn't know where she was going so it was likely those free black people didn't tell her because of fear of her telling the plan. she doesn't know where she is going until she disembarks. once she gets to new hampshire, she find a free black community there who harbors her and giving her housing and food and helps her find work and really keeps her safe. every time one of washington's
soming to effect she didn't remember what year it was i'm surprised. you think it would be burn in her memory. >> yeah, i think it -- it would be burned in one's memory, but -- i'll let talk louder women also have to think.the importance of history and memories and what -- especially interviewing the end of onesly. she says, look, can't remember the year and -- i don't even think that's true. thank you. i don't think that's too difficult to sort of wrap our minds around, because i know personally i can't remember what
happened last week, let alone what year things happened in. i think she wanted to provide an interview that was credible as possible but she didn't lie, and some way is kind of appreciate that she -- she says i can't remember i don't know. i think that about. 50 years as a fugitive. and at a time when -- as a fugitive and, remember, she could not read or write. and she doesn't become literate until the end of her life. so it's very possible that she doesn't remember and i appreciate the honesty. >> did the pursuit coin after the washington passed away? >> she says no. she has never stated that anyone
else from martha's side of the family came after her. when he think be -- we know martha washington her street wad transerred to their grandchildren so ona judge would have belong to them. looked through the inventory of the enslaved for the grandchildren. she is not noted on the lists and some ways i kind of thing they just gave up, but it's sort of fascinating story because her grandchildren really sort of moved in separate ways about slavery. we know george washington custus is for of the -- some slaves are emancipated. so, it's almost like a different story that we move into in the 19th century, it's sort of captures the transition between
the end of the 18th and in the early 19th century. found no record of it and ona did nose mention a potential capture with the grandchildren. so that's an important point, but she was pursued for at least three years, right? we know that from the moment that she runs away, until the death of george washington, she is pursued. and so one of the things we have to remember, even those there wasn't a physical attempt to capture her, she knew she was still their property and as long as slavery existed in the united states, she was never not -- she was always at risk, and so i do think it's important to note that the grandchildren did not appear to go after her.
maybe some document will fall out of a desk somewhere and tell me a different story and if that happens i'm excited, not worried. but she clearly always knew that she was a fugitive and that was a fear that rack true to -- rang true to her and her children. >> really good work you're doing here. does ona give in i insight into orange county's planning of the cap -- capital city, the layout? any information that would -- >> i wish she had. i wish. but she didn't. we havereally just two interviews from her, and the information that she gives about
george washington and martha washington revolved around religion, because it was clear that she became very -- ona endure already life as a fugitive. at church she became literate. not certain if she could write but could read. so she talked more about religion, talk about the desire to not go to the granddaughter. she talked about the fact that she never regretted this decision but she didn't give us the kind of intricacies of what was going on, and i find that kind of fascinating. she lived with them for so long. she knew everything. she witnessed the difficult moments, but she never went there. she didn't give up that kind of personal information. she takes a few jobs the washingtons, but give her a break. she was a slave, fugitive.
she has the right to put in some jabs. the questioned whether or not george washington was really religious. he say i never saw him pray. he went to church but didn't pray. so i think that's a different kind of understanding about religion from her viewpoint, but she doesn't give us those intricacies. what -- i do talk about banaker in the book but just as a way to give context to the early era of the united states and he's part of that. >> i find it interesting that you start your research on a bounty announcement, that you really weren't looking for at the time. and then you hit the jackpot by finding the interview, and i was wondering, was that part of your process or what led you to find
the report of the the interview? >> that's -- a jackpot. as a historian issue think -- historian i think i can say that dish don't no if would call it's jackpot. just feel like this kind of recovery work is so important, and to have this story out for a large audience is the same. i didn't necessarily know -- i'll be on here. doing this on c-span. did not know if i would actually be able to find enough to write a book about ona. there were children's books, there was maybe chapter or there in a couple of important biographs on washington but no book about her. when i first started the research i was like,ham why there is nothing on her? that's kind of crazy. and then i realized how long it
took to do this research and i realized why there was nothing, no kind of monograph dedicated to her because the materials are slim. another reason wife i said i couldn't have done this had i not written a fragile freedom, which taught me everything about early philadelphia, and new york, and sort of allowed me to ground this book in those communities of free people, in the kind of atmosphere of the street, and also what slavery looked like in philadelphia, and in new york, and then of course, ports smith. so at first i didn't know if i would be able to do -- write a whole look, and -- whole book, and then as time kept moving i realize its i can and she deserved it.
>> what can you tell us about ona's husband and i think i noticed in the wedding announcement that the last names -- her last name was spelled with a g the beginning rather than a j. was that attempt to maintain anonymity and secrecy. >> the question was about her husband, jack stain yes, who went by john staines. he was a free black mam. a sail, a seaman, and that was a very sort of typical employment opportunity for black men, because opportunities were few and far between, black men typically had to look to the seas to earn a living, and it was sometimes sporadic money but you would get your "at answer and that was the jackpot moment when you brought home you're
earnings, and also very dangerous work. the minute you left portsmith or philadelphia or what have you and sailed to other locations your freedom was always in jeopardy. so to think about -- ona knew she was marrying a sail and we would beway for a long period of time so that's kind of protection that many looked for at least through marriage in terms of having a male, a husband or spouse, who could help especially a free person, wasn't always at play for ona. she spent lot of time alone. at first when i was working on the book, there were some -- no note his kind of disappeared from her family, like just kind of fell off the face of the earth, so it took me a long time trying to track down what happened, and so i didn't bring an image of this but i have a moment when i found a death notice for him in the new
hampshire gazette and it said, jack staines, man of color died this day. at first i wondered, did he dyad sea, did he leave ona judge? was there marital tension that made him run off and she is alone after 1804. why? that little death announcement -- the fact they offered one for him as a black man was also significant. so, i was able to find that piece together about him. know anything about his beginnings. i just know that he was a free black man, married ona, they had children, and that their marriage was relatively short before he died and once again, kind of leaving ona to fend for herself in many ways if wish this could be a story where it was triumphant -- it's
triumphant na n that she is never caught but life was very difficult and the same way for ona for many of the other free and fugitives who were living in new hampshire. >> we're passing the mic down. >> thank you for all of this wonderful information. my question is, as a fugitive, was there any physical description of her? >> yes. there were -- actually, aside from the advertisement, we gate description of her as a young woman. she is about 22 when she runs off. and it kind of confirms what we think or what i know about her background, it described her as lighter complected, with bushy hair.
later on there were several accounts by local folks in portsmith who wrote their recollections of life and she made it into -- she was -- eventually she becomes anyone in portsmouth as the slave who ran away from washington. to supreme would come to the cottage where she lived and she was pretty poverty-stricken and sometimes they would give her a dollar and she would tell her story. so i would see her describe from very very light complected to almost white to copper colored. so there are descriptions about her. none 0 about her children but about her. so do have an idea of -- unfortunately no image but as a fugitive you want want people to know what you look like or keep talking about it. >> one more?
>> thank you. we just this past weekend were fortunate to go to the black history museum, and while we spent the afternoon we only made it through a few floors. you need sneakers for that place. >> if we good back will there be any mention of ona judge? >> so, i went and gave a talk the national museum of from american history and culture. i wish there was a -- no, there isn't. except for that i went and gave a talk and so the exhibits can change and maybe that will happen, but the definite already one thing that is great is their carrying the book in the book store so it might not be in the exhibit but you can ate least -- at least buy the book in the book store. has to do with a lack of the material culture connected to
ona because, as i said before, she was a fugitive, left very little behind in terms of a trace. if you good to that mag enough extent -- magnificent museum, there's tubman's shawl and nat turner's bible. so we have remnants from other very famous enslaved people and don't have anything in way of material culture produced. over i will say, this exhibit here made it happen. without the material culture piece, there's definitely an engagement with ona judge and she is represented. hopefully that will make it into that grand building in d.c. >> well, erica, thank you so much. let give a round of applause. [applause] >> that was really fantastic.
don't run off yet. you're not allowed to go yet. we're going to require her to stay and sign everybody's books and you'll buy multiple copies. i do appreciate what you said about the exhibit here. win we had the slavery conference, just been open a week and it was very curious to see how the scholars would respond to it, and you want to say anything else? we have some people involved in the exhibit here. >> i was one of those folks who showed up in october the conference, and it's a stunning exhibit, first visually, and a lot packed in, and i think it's sort of signals a moment from mt. vernon that is really important. slavery is a difficult topic, and to throw yourself into it and connect the first president with the contradictions, the hypocrisy, and also looking at
him as a man and his ideas changing about slavery over time. i'm super appreciative that definitely makes it into the exhibit. so, i've actually only heard positive comments about the exhibit and if you haven't seen it, you definitely should, and ona is there. >> thank you so much. let's give another big round of applause. thank you, c-span. good night, everybody. you can buy books out there. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]