President George Washington known as the United States of America founding father is a racist. Both George Washington and his wife Martha Washington owned many slaves. A woman named Betty was also their slave. She was a valued slave to Martha Washington. Betty had four kids. When George Washington was declared to be the president of the United States he had to leave Virginia and move to New York. Martha Washington chose her most valued slaves to come with her to New York. Betty, however, was not chosen to go with Martha instead two of her kids Ona Judge and Austin were going with her. While the Washingtons and their slaves were settling in the north they’ve noticed how blacks were free. Ona Judge was fascinated to see these people walking freely and not being controlled by their owners. Thus, the Washingtons disagreed with the Pennsylvania law of freeing slaves after six months. Once their slaves have reached the six month period Washington will send them back into the south due to the strict slave laws. Martha Washington’s chief attendant Ona Judge decided to escape and risked everything in order to gain freedom. In Never Caught author Erica Dunbar describes Washington’s views on slavery and the story of their runaway slave Ona Judge.
On April 19, 1775, the American Revolutionary War has begun. George Washington was commander in chief of the Continental Army. The Continental Army was a group of men who were undertrained and took on the Herculean fight. This war was a terrible one, it lasted far longer than predicted and there weren’t enough resources. Shoes, blankets, shirts, and gunpowder was hard to get (15). More than 30,000 American soldiers were killed in this war. Some died from direct combat or slow-moving diseases and infections. An unknown amount of men died from accidentally shot comrades, crushed by old and unstable wagons, falling off of horses, and accidental drowning (16). There were also some men who have taken their own lives because they were unable to face the violence of war. Soldiers who have died in this war have left their wives and kids in poverty and starvation. The surprising victory of Yorktown leads to a negotiation of a signed peace treaty and the evacuation of British troops. When Washington came home on Christmas Eve 1783 he decided to resign as commander of chief because he missed being in Mount Vernon and with his wife. Thus knowing America was broke he could not remove himself from politics and the concerns of the new nation. Washington was unanimously elected to serve as president. On April 14, 1789, Charles Thomson: secretary of Congress went to Mount Vernon to declare George Washington as the president of the United States of America.
President George Washington prepares for his journey to New York. First Lady Martha Washington was upset. She didn’t want to leave her home Mount Vernon. Ona Judge is one of the favored house slaves and she is responsible for tending her mistress needs, emotionally and physically (22). This move to New York was a tough one for Judge. She has never left her family and loved ones. Thus, Judge had no choice but to leave her family. Judge was really upset inside, she didn’t want to leave her mother Betty, but she had to wipe her tears and remain strong, due to her mistress already falling apart. Like Judge Martha Washington also had no choice she had to move wherever her husband is. Betty mother of Ona and Austin was very depressed. She was about to lose both her daughter and her son. Austin will serve as one of Washington’s waiters. Austin wife and children also in sorrow. As both Ona and Austin left Mount Vernon Betty knew that her relationship with her kids will never be the same now. Slaves who were chosen to go with Martha Washington were excited because in the north there was an opportunity for a slave to be free. After three months living in New York, Washington’s were headed back home to Mount Vernon.
When Ona got home she found out her sister Betty Davis gave birth to a little girl named Nancy. As Judge laid her eyes on Nancy, it reminded her of the dilemmas slaves have to go through. Even though she was home in Mount Vernon the thought of her being a free black woman still carried along with her. She knew the only way she could gain freedom is living in the North. Both president Washington and his wife were ready to go to Philadelphia and brought more slaves to come with them due to the lack of white laborers and displeased with the northern practices of white servants. Though little does Judge know that the move to Philadelphia would serve as the birthplace of her own freedom.
President Washington served his second term around 1795. President Washington was opening up his letters. He came across a letter from his grandchild Elizabeth Parke Custis also known as Eliza. In the letter, she tells her grandparents that she has a boyfriend name Thomas Law and she wants to marry him. Martha Washington was very upset reading this letter because she loved Eliza so much. Her grandchildren were the only remaining connections to her deceased heirs (89). About three days later Washington received a letter from Thomas Law asking for approval and blessings. Washington writes a letter back approving their marriage. However, Martha Washington was worried about her grandchild. She believed Eliza doesn’t know how to fulfill her duties as a wife and creating a new household in Federal City. Martha Washington is giving Ona Judge as a wedding gift to Eliza Law. Judge overheard this conversation between Mrs. Washington and Eliza and was conveyed that Washington’s would replace their slaves no matter what. Even though Judge held a revered position she knew that in the end, she is a slave and her feelings don’t matter to Mrs. Washington. Judge feared that if she worked for Eliza her husband Thomas Law could use her for sexual interest. Due to her fears of Eliza’s temper and Law’s sexual profile, Ona decided to run away.
Spring 1796, Ona Judge’s mind was filled with dreams, nightmares, plans, and challenges. The words “fugitive” or “runaway” scares Ona. The President proposed the Fugitive Slave Act and signed in February 1793 describing a slave owner could legally seize a runaway slave and force the apprehended slave to appear in front of a judge where he or she is captured (105). Ona however, made contact with a group of free blacks who offered to help with an escape. While the Washingtons were having supper, Judge left the Executive Mansion. Due to Judge escaping in the north Washington’s believed they might not be able to find her. On May 23, 1796 advertisement of Ona was posted describing the way she looks, her full name, and when she left the executive mansion. The ad informed that Ona packed up clothes. A ten dollar reward was offered for Judge’s return. Washington asked his friend Lee in New York about Ona. Lee wasn’t sure where Ona would be but he did notify law enforcement authorities in New York about a fugitive slave (113). Ona was informed by the free blacks not to head to New York. Judge escaped the city by boat. During her interview in 1845, she described how her journey to Portsmouth, New Hampshire on a vessel and was commanded by Captain John Bowles. Judge announced Bowles after 10 years of his death. Ona was very thankful for Bowles helping her escape.
When Judge reached to New Hampshire she was seeking for a place to live. Being a single black female she will have a tough time finding one. She found housing in a lodge called “Free Negroes.” Free blacks in Portsmouth accustomed to helping fugitive slaves (121). Now that Judge found a place to live she sought employment. Blacks were given hard labor jobs, Ona has never done this she was a seamstress for the Washingtons. Labor was done by other slaves and food was made by someone else. She still preferred freedom over her being a valued slave of the Washingtons.
Judge later on, marries Jack Steins. Judge gets pregnant with Jack Stein’s baby. Through her pregnancy, Ona did an intense amount of work to the point where she had troubles doing so due to her belly being big. Ona gave birth to a girl and named her Eliza. She named her Eliza because Eliza Law was the reason why she fought for freedom. Due to Judge being a free black woman and Jack as a free black man it made no difference to their child Eliza. Even though all the suffering she went through as a free black woman she still preferred that than returning to become a slave.
I definitely do refer this book for next semester history, 251 students, because it describes how President Washington wasn’t such a great man. Washington family were very racist and this novel opens our eyes of how slavery was portrayed in the president of the United States household. I want to inform students that this book is a true story. It talks about slavery which can be hard to process. While I was reading the book, I did felt very depressed that people actually went through such tragedy. However, this book is very informative and illustrates Washington’s point of view on slavery that most of us have never known about. I am happy that I read this book as an assignment for my history class. I gained knowledge about the United States cruel first president George Washington.