tv Never Caught CSPAN February 26, 2017 10:30am-11:49am EST
and i would also like to welcome the c-span audience out there who is recording as the cd. it's great to have you back into library. these evening book talks are special for a variety of races because we get to bring exciting, ne, new historians toe eager community here, but also because it's sponsored by ford which has been a great donor to mount vernon for many, many years. as you on the mount vernon late association does not take any government money. it's a completely private institution based on philanthropy and based on people coming to the estate. so we depend on groups like the ford family and the ford motor company who have supported mount vernon since henry ford became the first fire engine to mount vernon to keep the mansion house from burning to the ground. as some of you know it's an ongoing challenge. in fact you are welcome to donate to our fire suppression efforts right now.
i'd like to welcome you all out here. before we begin the main event i also want to mention some upcoming library programs of which was still have some tickets available. our annual martha washington lecture featuring flora fraser, discussing 18th-century women as consumer on both sides of the atlantic. that's going to be a fantastic conversation led by our own susan was the senior curator here at mount vernon. we have the first of three michelle smith lectures coming up featuring george goodwin discussing benjamin franklin and london, british life of america's founding father on march 30. that's when you definitely want to try to sign up for. i met george in london at the benjamin franklin house, which is an extraordinary low house museum and he has got an extremely large personality. i think you all will particularly enjoy him and his discovery of franklins life in london. let's get to the main event
right away. we are exceptionally pleased to have with us erica armstrong dunbar from university of delaware with us tonight. you might have seen her featured in the "new york times" recently, and on many npr programs but this is where she belongs, talking about a very important subject picture theater ph.d from columbia university. in 2011 she became the inaugural director of the program and african-american history of the library company philadelphia. they should've called you the founding director. her first book, fragile freedom, african-american women and emancipation in the antebellum city published by yale, extremely well-regarded an important study of an understudied topic up to that point and so the perfect person to take on the challenge to recover the story of ona judge. let's all give erica a big round
of applause. [applause] >> good evening, everyone. happy black history month. here i am. so first let me offer a few thank use of coercive doug bradburn who invited me. i really think that there's no other place that i should be getting this talk. can you all seen the crux i'm vertically challenged. i'm going to turn this significance is better. better? okay. and also like to say, thank steve and emmy for helping me with arrangements to arrive. it's been a very, very busy week. this book just came out on tuesday of last week.
and so i'm an academic and aspects of my first book was published with yale university press, and this book is more of a sort of crossover trade book for a larger more general audience. so it's a very different experience. one that's been rewarding but different and i'm a little tired. so forgive me if my voice comes in and out. i've been talking more than usual. so tonight is such a pleasure to be here, to be really where the story of ona judge life begin. it's not part of your whatever to do is talk a little bit. i read read a little bit from the book and give you a little context to some slides about -- here we are on stereo. yay. and they give you a little
context about ona judge's life and really sort of what i wanted to do with this book. about 20 years ago i was doing some research on my first book about african-american women in the north. and i came across an advertisement for a runaway, and enslaved person, who had run from the presidents house in philadelphia, may 1796. and i was sort of caught up looking through microfilm and old newspapers, but this made me pause. and i said, white, who is this person who ran away? she was named ona judge in the advertisement. i thought wait a minute, i don't know this person. and that was troubling to me because this is my area of expertise. i'm supposed to know all of this stuff and i had no idea who this
person was. and it was something that was very sort of compelling about this advertisement. never sort of escaped me. and i said, i'm going to come back to this important story. i'm going to try and trace this woman. i need answers. so i finished the first book, and uim many and here i am many years later because a lengthy process and attempting to recover the life of oney judge. for those of us who do specifically african-american, early african-american history, doing this kind of work in archives where the evidence is slam, factual evidence often doesn't exist because people of color, women in particular often remain outside of the archives. and so what i will say is that
there's absolutely no way i could've written in this book had i not written my first book here so that's my blood for graduate students and people who are really doing the work of academics. i needed a grounding in order to be able to write this book about a woman who was really just absolutely magnificent. when you read this book you will be blown away by her life. many folks here in this room and, of course, at mount vernon, this is no new story. we know about oney judge. and you are among a small group of people who actually now i hope there are many more who know her. that's the expectation. i want her name to become one of those sort of household names, like a frederick douglass, like harriet tubman. because she runs away decades
before they do, right. so the title, i'll give it a sort of quick story about the title, "never caught." this is one of my first choices for the title of the book, and i presented it to some people at the publishers, and they hated it. they said, it gives away the story, erica. i said yeah, but so does 12 years a slave. honestly, we understand, right? it was 12 years. it was going to end at some point. with "never caught" 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. and i think it's a big distinction and one that i wanted to make, spatially as is trying to kind of dismantle what we think about slavery in the south and the north, at this moment where the nation is new. and i think that's what of the
other things i was really trying to do with this book was to allow us to see what the early days of this new country looked like to the eyes of the enslaved. and her life gives us the opportunity to look at early virginia, new york, and sylvania and new hampshire. and 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 very kind of central issues to this new nation. and this time we're doing it through a young black woman who made the choice to run away. so as i said i will read a bit. i will talk and we will look at a few slides and we walked together on this journey of oney's life. spring rain drains the streets
in philadelphia in 1796. whether in the city of brotherly love was often fickle at this time of year vacillating between extreme cold and oppressive heat, but rain was almost always appreciated in the nations capital. it erased the putrid smells of rotting food, animal waste and felt that permeates the cobblestone roads of this new nation. it reminded philadelphians that the law and punishing winter was behind them. spring rain cleans the streets and souls of philadelphians. it ushered in optimism and hope, and if you think of rebirth. and 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 bequeathed to her owners granddaughter. today i will introduce one of the most understated fugitive slaves in america. at the age of 22, judge stole herself from the washingtons, forcing the president to show a slave catching hand. as a fugitive, judge would test the presidents will and his reputation. the most important man in the nation hailed with weighing the american revolution cannot 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 at mount vernon and its action and oldest lie but this is what them on the road and doing my dog and pony show. this is what up, there are of course earlier images but always tried to give this image so that people have an idea of what the mansion house, where she was for such a long period of her life, for a good 16 years. and so of course you all were here so you don't need this. but today i will introduce what i'm calling, calling her a new american hero, a slave girl raised at mount vernon who once exposed the ideas of freedom, was compelled to pursue it at any cost. this was a woman who found the courage to defy the president,
the wit to find allies, to escape, to out negotiate, to run, to survive. her story at this point we can tell is really the only existing lengthy account of a fugitive once held by the washingtons, at least told from her mouth to interviewers. it is perhaps the only fugitive again for many slave in 18th century virginia. her 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. never regretting her decision to fight for what she believed to be her right. and that was freedom. in 1789, we know that washington was elected first president of united states, travel to new
york, the nations first capital. and he and martha washington would take with them seven slaves from mount vernon. this is a sketch of federal hall where president washington would take the oath of office in new york. so he would take eventually martha would make her way up to new york. she was unhappy about the move. she made that known to everyone, but she went and they took seven enslaved people with them from mount vernon. and ona judge was one of them. she would be taken from her mother, betty, at her other siblings. i'm going to 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 new only mount vernon and its surroundings, and had never traveled far from her family and loved ones. for judge, the move must've been similar to the dreaded auction block. although she was not to be sold to a different order, 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 to go on about the work of preparing to move, folding linens, packing martha washington's dresses, and personal accessories, and helping with the grandchildren. these were all things that ona judge would be involved in. they were the tasks at hand and it wasn't a place to complain or question. judge had to remain strong and
steady, if not for herself, then for her mistress who appeared to be falling apart at the seams. like judge, martha washington had no choice about the move to new york. her life was at the direction of her husband, who is now the most powerful man in the country. mrs. washington and ona judge may have shared similar concerns, but, of course, only martha washington was allowed to express discontent and sorrow. martha washington was unhappy, and everyone knew it, including her frightened slave. the presidents of nephew robert lewis would also soon be made aware of it. when he arrived at the estate on may 14, things were in disarray. lewis, who served as washington's secretary between 1789-91, was chosen to escort
his aunt and her 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 mrs. washington's conflicting feelings. robert lewis described the departure which finally took place on may 16, 1789, as an emotional moment for the slaves and the first lady. quote, after an early dinner and making all necessary arrangements in which we were greatly, it brought us to 3:00 in the afternoon when we left mountaimount the. the service of the house and a number of the field negroes made their appearance to take leave of their mistress. numbers of these poor wretches seemed greatly agitated, much
affected. my aunt equally so. betty, ona judge's mother, must've been one of those agitated slaves. not only was she losing her 16-year-old daughter but she was also losing her son austin, who would serve as one of the washingtons waiters. austin's wife charlotte 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 that brother and sister were traveling together. austin was older and mail, and could look out for his younger sister. still, betty knew that a relationship with her children would never be the same.
the washingtons would travel to new york and would really, their visit there was relatively brief. they would leave for philadelphia in november of 1790 when the sight of the nations capital changed again. owner would go with the washingtons and she would be one of nine enslaved people who traveled to philadelphia. so we're going to go head south actually to philadelphia. we don't have an image. pretend that you see the presidents house. [laughter] which was, it was a lithic record an image of a lithograph from the presidents house which actually right now for those of you are familiar with
philadelphia if you go to the liberty bell and constitution hall, the house is actually right there. i'll tell you, this is sort of an aside, when i was watching kind of the pre-election coverage and there was a speech given by former president barack obama and hillary clinton, it was smack in the middle of this courtyard at independence hall. i'm watching kind of the visual with the crowds and what have you come and off to the right was where the actual presidents house stood. and i thought wow, here we are. i'm watching this moment and off to the right hand side turn what is still there. she won't let me go. she follows me everywhere. february 1796, brought a palpable unease to the executive mansion in philadelphia. a thick tension prompted ona judge and are enslaved companions to tread lightly
around george and martha washington. enslaved men and women always moved about their days with caution, not knowing what events could sour or sweden and owners mood. for the slaves who reside within the same walls as the owner, life could be akin to walking through fields embedded with landmines. the smallest matters such as the accident breaking of a dish or inconveniently timed bad weather could alter the disposition of an owner. although the president did not earned the reputation as being a violent or physically extremely punishing slaveowner, he did on occasion lose his temper. ona judge maneuvered through her daily tasks at the presidents house with a smooth watchfulness, perhaps attending to martha washington with extra
care as she helped her dress for the day. for seven years judge had served her mistress well up north. she became martha washington's closest body slave. all who knew the washingtons on a personal level were familiar with the judge. she often accompanied her mistress on social calls. since moving to new york and then philadelphia, the first ladies life was filled with socializing and public events. so it's important to realize that this relationship between mistress and enslaved person at least in terms of ona judge, it was a very kind of intimate relationship. not necessarily in the best of ways but ona was around martha washington constantly helping her with the most intimate responsibilities, dressing, bathing, combing hair. she was around.
she heard everything that went on in the executive mansion. judge understood her mistress. she knew just how much martha washington loved her grandchildren. she had out that every single one of her children fathered by her first husband. martha washington had no choice but to look towards her grandchildren for hope and enjoyment. and although she was only 27 when she married george washington, their marriage never yielded offspring. after the death of her son john, martha and george washington welcomed two of his small children into their home, raising them up through adulthood. i think that's a really interesting thing to think about, the kind of intergenerational relationship or community that was actually there from the beginning with the first president. let's hope we have a picture. we do.
judge must have witnessed the shock and concern of her owners after they read through the mail in february 6. the president received a letter from eliza, his 19-year-old step grandchild or, in form of her grandparents of her intention to marry. eliza wrote of engagement to thomas law, a british businessman who came to america only recently before in 1794. and became involved in land development in and around the federal city. he met eliza who is 20 years his junior, and a romance turned into an engagement. eli says father was deceased and the subways george washington stood in as one of the sort of appropriate circuits come to approve or reject the marriage proposal.
the news must have sent the executive mansion into a tailspin. although this was very personal family business, everyone who lived within the walls of the president's house exactly what was happening. and it's interesting when we read the letters john adams writes about this kind of interesting situation, this relationship that eliza is entering into, they were -- there were questions about who this thomas law was. and he writes home about the situation. neither george nor martha knew about the seriousness of the relationship between eliza and law. there was much to be concerned about with this union. law arrived in america with two of his three children, both of whom were the offspring from a relationship with an indian woman. they were biracial. his biracial children and his agent most certainly raised the
eyebrows of the washingtons. you was also concerned he might decide to go back to england and could take eliza with them. ona judge watched her owners feel their way through the dramatic events of februar february 1796. martha washington's concerns must have come to optimism because by the end of the month she began to publicly announce the upcoming matrimony. she said she moved to her concern, her fear, her anchor for not knowing about this and begin to sort of think about this union in the most positive way possible. ona judge had no idea that the acceptance of the marriage by both george and martha washington would begin the unraveling of her life. so eliza married thomas law on march 21, 1796. and the marriage signaled the beginning of major changes for the washingtons and for their
slaves. judge most certainly knew that her time in philadelphia was limited. by the march wedding of eliza, close family knew that george washington would not run again for president. this was no secret in the executive mansion, and eventually all of their lives would change once they returned to mount vernon. the idea of reconnecting with loved ones in virginia must have given some of the slaves in the executive mansion reason to celebrate. but judge had lived in the north for seven years, and the thought of returning to mount vernon did not settle well. i returned to mount vernon was reminder to judge and are enslaved companions that they were considered the property of another person.
and after living in a free northern city, this was a difficult concept to swallow. for ona judge, however, the uncertainty vanished as her fate was revealed. i think it's important to realize that ona judge comes to philadelphia as a teenager. she 17, 16, 17 years old and she spins of these formative years in philadelphia watching free black philadelphians grow. she watched richard allen build mother bethel around the corner just about. she saw free black men and women selling pepper pot soup and fruit on the streets. they were entrepreneurs, and it wasn't necessarily easy, but she saw freedom. she could almost feel it, taste it, smell it. she would go to the circus, go to the theater. these are things she would never
and first lady isn't used at this moment but i do use it as part of this narrative that i have authored. the first lady made a decision that would help her gra granddaughter navigate through the transition of marriage. she would give ona judge to eliza. although judge earned the top spot among martha washington's favorite slave there was nothing she could do change her mind. judge's fate was now in the hands of law. a woman who was approximately the same age and was known for having a difficult, sometimes volatile temper. i always show this image because
it gives us an idea of eliza. she was a force to be reckoned with. her family wrote about her temper and this would have been something ona judge was familiar with. a shift to the household of the irritable and volcanic eliza custer law would likely doom her to a life of poor treatment and uncertainty and she could not let that happen. i will read another passage from the book to give you an idea of what that moment was like for her. judge knew what the future held should she not take the advice of her free black associates.
she suppose if she went back to virginia she would never have the chance to escape. once she learned that upon the dice of her master and mistress she would become the property of their granddaughter by the name of custis she knew she had to flee. she imagined her freedom began immediately not after the death of her owners. in her interview at the end of her life she said quote she was determined never to be her slave. her decision was made. she would risk everything to avoid the clutches of the new ms. law. judge was well informed and knew her decision to flee was far more than risky but she was willing to face dogs hissing
kidnappers and bounty trappers her whole life. judge could no longer stomach her enslavement and it was the change in her ownership that pulled the furry. she had given everything to the washington for 12 years and now she was to be discarded like the scraps of material she cut from ms. washington's dresses. judge knew that no matter how obedient or loyal she appeared to her owners she would never be considered fully human. her fidelity meant nothing to
the washington's. she was their property to be traded or merged with whoever they wish. the beast that slept in every slave's soul was awakened. it coaxed the hunger for freedom of out of the recesses of freedom from judge's mind. her decision to run was just the beginning of her liberation. the waiting was difficult. for nearly two weeks judge had to calm her nerves and suppress her anger as allies completed the planning for her escape. she could not raise suspicion so judge worked in tandem with the rest of the household as they prepared for the trip to go to mount vernon.
she said the comment while they were packing to go to virginia, i was packing to go i didn't know where. i knew if i should go back to virginia i should never get my liberty. judge made certain not to share information with anyone who lived in the executive mansion. she knew that fearful or jealous slaves were often responsible for foiled fugitive escapes. she decided to rely on the assistance of free blacks were resided outside of the walls of the president's home. not only did ona judge had to pack her things to leave but she had to determine also when she would escape. although the executive mansion possessed more slaves than any other residents judge was the preferred house slave and had to be available at all times for whatever reason.
there was only one duty which which she was exempt. meal preparation. the kitchen staff prepared all the meals served to the president and first family and judge sometimes received a bit of free time during the afternoon meal and the evening supper. the president sometimes entertained guests extending the festivities into the evening to enjoy extra wine and a conversation. this could be the only moment judge could use to her advantage. when the moment arrived, she gathered her nerves and fled. on saturday, may 21st, 1796 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 fugitive is to remember the plan to escape was always strategic or planned and not just an emotional whim. in the case of ona judge we have this same in effect and her escape would be careful and calculated. she knew the moment she walked out of the president's mansion her status as a trust td house slave for the most poufrp american family would immediately come to an end. no longer would judge be the
favorite slave of her mistress instead she would be a fugitive. the household stuart to george washington placed an ad in the philadelphia gazette. for a week after her disappearances clay pool's daily american advertiser which we have up here, as well as the philadelphia gazette -- not the pennsylvania gazette. for the longest time the ad was attributed to the pennsylvania gazette on wikipedia. that was in correct. for a week they ran advertisements for attempts to recapture ona judge. in the philadelphia gazette we have this ad that describes ona judge, announces to the world she had defied the president.
from one of the ads: on saturday afternoon, and ona judge, and she was called onie and written about it here in mount vernon and philadelphia. i believe it was a derivative of her name and i chose to call her ona which is the name she went by at the end of her life. a light molotto girl that was frequencyled with busha hair, middle stachture, slender and delicately made and about 20 years of age. this advertisement officers a $10 reward. about the cost of a barrel of flour at the time. another interesting thing to note is this advertisement officers the award and they say
this $10 is paid to anyone white or black. this is written in the first ads that appear. that language was taken out subsequent subsequently. it was a play for to the free black community who may have seen, witnessed or did something about ona's escape. fedrick's ad alerted people to judge's probably escape route; the delaware river. kit sent a strong warning to anyone who worked on the docks of philadelphia busy port stating quote as she may attempt to escape by water all matters of vessels are cautioned against admitting her into them. kit's assumptions were correct. for judge did escape the city by boat. a combination of preparation,
assistance from the black community, steely nerves, pushed the trusted enslaved woman to begin her life anew as a fugitive. it was this point in the book where i move into this transition from ona judge as an enslaved woman in virginia, then new york and philadelphia, to becoming a fugitive. her life changes instantly the moment she walks out of the door and it begins on her 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 hold to another. the smell of molasses and coffee was thick, nauseated passengers not aacost accostomed to
traveling. travelling by sea could be dangerous. old and poorly inspected ships slipped in and out of cities with torn sales and weathered ble calking hoping to make it to the next port without issue. a single masted swoop that could carry up to 75 people depending on the size of the cargo., they were designed to haul freight but ship captains earned extra money by allowing passengers to ride along. any seat bearing she would have taken with the washington would have been close toenjoyable. short river crossings and
relatively luxury vessels are what judge came to know but she had turned her back on all of that. now on board the nasty, ship and space was minimum and travers lodged themselves wherever there was room. once again the fugitive found herself sleeping in tight quarters but this time it was with strangers. some who were traveling home to visit with family and friend and others, who like judge, were leaving behind a difficult task for the possibilities of a new future in ports smith. the unsettled sea likely caused her stomach to turn somersaults sending her to seek comfort above the top deck. surly other passengers suffered
the same way hanging their bodies over the side, religioea the contents of their stomach into the atlantic. every morning when the sun lifted above the horizon, judge would have looked out across the ocean thankful to have survived another day away from her owners. but still she was terrified. for five days, judge contained her fear. she could not appear too nervous as "pageants, parlors, and pretty women"s were already throwing quick and curious glances toward the light-skinned black woman who traveled alone. she knew that the washington's were looking for her and that by now her name and a bounty probably aperiod in many of the philadelphia newspapers. she wonldered how much of a reward was attached had tear recap clr. a thought that sent her eyes to scan the stranger onboard.
surely none of the wast's agents made it to bowl's 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 she would dress in clothing that allowed 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. the washington's would pursue ona for years up until three months before the president died really. so for years ona had to try and figure out how to remain never
caught. i want to show a two of the archival bits i was able to pull while working on this project for nine years. the research and writing took almost a decade. during my process of researching, i kind of span this moment where digitizing was just starting. this was one of the newspapers i looked through early on in my project. this is another one of those jump for joy moments when you actually find what you are looking for in the archives. this is a marriage announcement. mr john stain commits ona judge,
and her name is spelled differently so it took me a while to find this. but this is january of 1797. so she hasn't been gone but 7-8 months. in that time, she is able to find a husband. not only did she find a husband but she didn't go by an ally -- al alius. if you pull out the whole page of the newspaper, i don't have that slide here, of course, but on the front page of this newspaper was george washington's announcement
thanking them for being good citizens as he prepared to department. so 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. ona judge would make her way to freedom, or relative freedom. she would live out her days in and around greenwood, new hampshire. she evaded washington's slave capturing acquaintances for her entire life.
she married, had children, worked as a domestic until 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 slide of the evening. it is a little bit of one of the first interviews that ona judge grants. i am not going to tell you everything about new hampshire because i don't want to give it away. the book is called "never caught" so we know there is some drama. this newspaper appeared in may of 1745 and ona judge was in her
mid 70s and grants an interview. i would not necessarily call ona judge an abolitionist. i am not sure she saw herself as such. she was asked to tell her story and one thing i notice is i have spent time with my own mother and grandparents and the older you get the more likely you are to say exactly what is on your mind without much filter and i think we have that here bit with ona judge's interviews. she explains why she ran away, how she ran away, why it was important and also that she didn't regret it even though her life was terribly difficult. 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 strings of the mother. so the stakes 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. thong. -- thank you. [applause] >> i think we will do some q&a and we have two microphones stationed on either side of the room. thank you for a fascinating
talk. >> were you able to talk to desce desce descent -- descendants and get oral history? >> good question. the descendants directly related to ona judge don't exist but there are descendants connected to her half siblings. there has been some correspo correspondence between the library and some of the folks who claim to be descendants. i purposely chose not to go to back up that tree although maybe that is a second project? i don't know. but what we do is have a record of some of her half siblings and what happens to them once ona leaves. one of her siblings, a sister,
whose name is philadelphia -- i know interesting. philadelphia is actually forced to take the job and goes to work for eliza custis law. there is an epilogue at the end that explains a poignant example. we have two examples of women in the early 19th century who were trying to find freedom. ona doing it as a fugitive and her sister attempting to do it in other ways. it gets us back to this issue of women attempting to fight for their freedom. there is a story there. philadelphia marries a man named glen costen and becomes part of a well-known family in washington, d.c. i will tell you philadelphia
does find her freedom. i was wondering if you could elaborate more on the free black community in philadelphia and the ways they might have been planning to assist her. >> that is a great question about the community of free blacks in philadelphia and how they came to her aid. i think one of the important things about this story, this cyst history, is it highlights.
of philadelphia and likely to help in her escape and assisting fugitives. a week before she left it was noted she was given new money for shoes. smart, right? you will need new issues if you are running away. richard allen was a chimney sweep and served the household of the president and it was some kind of connection between her and richard allen helped her but
the only person she names is john bowels who is is a ship master. i was able to, because she named his name, she made it clear in her interview she was only naming his name because she was deceased so he would not get in trouble. but it was very clear that following the ship reports that pulled into port of philadelphia his ship was in philadelphia at exactly the time that ona judge ran away. the free blacks involved with her and her running away the same holds true in new hampshire.
she is very clear she gets help and assistance from the free black population in new hampshire. now, the population is tiny. there were more black people in mount vernon than portsmith. when i realized she went to portsmith i was like why portsmi portsmith? then i realized she could not geographic -- go to new york and perhaps the same was true of boston. she didn't know where she was going and it is likely the free black people didn't tell her for fear of problems and she would tell the plan. she doesn't know where he is going until she disembarks. once she gets to new hampshire,
she finds a free black community who harbors her and gives her housing, food and helps her find work and really keeps her safe. every time one of washington's agents or family members came after her they always sheltered, harbored and hid her. i think the other part of what this book does is show the importance of the free black community in the end of the early 18th and 19th century. >> a few years ago i read a wonderful children's book to my daughter about judge. were you part of that project? >> no, i know the author. if it was dianne turner she has written a children's book. i wasn't a part of that but i know her work. i think there are two children's
she gave us good details but says i can't remember the year and i don't even think that is too difficult to sort of wrap mind around. >> you are coming back. thank you. >> i know i personally can't remember what happened last week let alone what year things happened in. i think she wanted to provide an interview that was incredible and she didn't mind. i appreciate she said i don't remember and i think about that 50 years as a fugitive at a time when she could not read or write. she doesn't become literal until the end of her life. i think it is possible she doesn't remember.
i appreciate the honesty. >> does the search continue after the washington's passed away? >> she said no. she states no one else from martha's side of the family came about her. we know martha washington's will, estate, was transferred to her grandchildren. technically ona judge would have belonged to one of them. i looked through the inventory of the enslaved for all those grandchildren and she is not noted on those lists anywhere. in some ways, i think they just gave up. but it is a sort of fascinating story because her grandchildren really sort of moved in separate
ways about slavery. it captures the end and ona did not mention the possibility of being n attempted capture by any of the grandchildren. i think that is an important point. she was pursued for at least three years. we know from the moment she runs away until the death of george washington she is pursued.
layout based on societies and the rest? >> i wish she had. but she didn't. martha washington really revolved around religion because it was clear ona became religious during her life as a fugitive. went to church, it is there where she became literate. we are not certain if she could write or not but at least could read. she talked more about religion. she talked about the desire to not go to the grand daughters.
she never went there. she didn't give up that kind of personal information. she takes a few jabs at the washington's but she was a slave and a fugitive. she questioned whether or not george washington was really religious. she said i never saw him pray. he went to chuch but didn't play. so that was a different understanding about religion from her viewpoint. i do talk about it in the book but just as a way to give context for what the early era of the united states looked like. >> i find it interesting that you started to research on a
there is a chapter here and there and biographies on washington but no book about her. when i started the research, i was like why is there nothing her? that is kind of crazy. then i realized how long it took to do this research and realized that is why there is no monograph dedicated to her because the materials are slim. that is another reason i could not have done this before had i not written a fragile freedom that 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.
i didn't know if i would be able to write a whole book and an as time kept moving i realized i can and she deserves it. >> what can you tell us about ona's husband? i think i noticed in the wedding announcement her last name was spelled with a g at the beginning and i was wondering if that was an attempt to obtain secrecy? >> the question is about her husband, jack stains who went by john stains sometimes. he was a free black man, a sailor, a seaman and that was a 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. you know, it was some kind of sporadic money but you could get the money at once and get the jackpot and bring home the earnings. it was dangerous work. the minute you left ports smith or philadelphia or what have you and sailed to other locations, your freedom is in jeopardy. thinking about ona was a sailor. at first when i was working on the book, there were notes he
disappeared from her family and fell off the face of the earth. it took me a long time trying to track down what happened and so i didn't bring an image of this. we know she is alone after 1804 but why is that? the fact they authored a death announcement as a black man was significant. i was able to find that, piece that together about him. i don't know anything about his beginnings. i just know 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. i wish this would be a story that is triumphant and she stays away and is never caught. life was very difficult. it was the same way for ona as it was for many of the other free and enslaved and fugitives who were living in new hampshire. >> thank you for all this. my question is as a fugitive, was there any description of her? >> aside from the advertisement
and we get the description of a young woman. she is about 22 when she runs off. it kind of confirms what i know about her back ground and described her as lighter complexion and bushy hair. later on there were several accounts by local folks in ports smith who wrote their recollections of life. she made it into -- eventually she becomes known in ports smith has the slave who ran away from washington. people would come to the cottage she lived and she was pretty poverty stricken and sometimes they will give her a dollar and she would tell them about her stories. i have seen her described from very light complexion to almost white to copper color. there are descriptions about her. none about her children but about her.
we do have an idea, of course, no image. as a fugitive, you wouldn't want people to know what you look like or to keep talking about it. >> wide-we had the fortunate opportunity to visit the black museum this weekend and we didn't get to see all the floors. but if we go back is there a display to ona judge? >> i went and gave a talk there last week and i wish there was a lot of her but no, there isn't. the exhibit can change and maybe
that will happen. but they definitely -- one thing that is great is they are carrying the book in the bookstore. it may not be in the exhibit but you can find the book in the bookstore. there is a silk shawl, tat turners bible. without the culture piece, there is an engagement with ona judge and she is represented.
it will hopefully make it into washington, d.c. >> erica, thank you so much. let's give a round of applause. [applause] >> that was really fantastic. you are not allowed to go yet. we are going to require. when we had the slavery conference, just an open week, it is very curious to see how the scholars would respond to it. you want to say anything else? >> it is a stunning visual and a lot packed in.
it signals a moment from mount vernon that is important. slavery is a difficult topic. 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 have only heard positive comments about the exhibit 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 the books right out the door. you join steven right over there. all right.