Black History Month: Oney Judge, owned by Pres. George Washington | IN THE NEWS

[February 10, 2017 by toritto] [ Our thanks to Frank for this]

“Advertisement,” The Philadelphia Gazette & Universal Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 24, 1796

“Absconded from the household of the President of the United States, ONEY JUDGE, a light mulatto girl, much freckled, with very black eyes and bushy hair. She is of middle stature, slender, and delicately formed, about 20 years of age.

She has many changes of good clothes, of all sorts, but they are not sufficiently recollected to be described—As there was no suspicion of her going off, nor no provocation to do so, it is not easy to conjecture whither she has gone, or fully, what her design is; but as she may attempt to escape by water, all masters of vessels are cautioned against admitting her into them, although it is probable she will attempt to pass for a free woman, and has, it is said, wherewithal to pay her passage.

Ten dollars will be paid to any person who will bring her home, if taken in the city, or on board any vessel in the harbour;—and a reasonable additional sum if apprehended at, and brought from a greater distance, and in proportion to the distance.     —FREDERICK KITT, Steward. May 23″

Oney “Ona” Judge was a mixed raced slave on George Washington’s plantation at Mount Vernon, Virginia. Born in 1773 at Mount Vernon, her mother.  Betty, was an enslaved seamstress; her father, Andrew Judge, was an English tailor working as an indentured servant at Mount Vernon.

Betty had been among the 285 African slaves held by Martha Washington’s first husband, Daniel Parke Custis (1711–1757).  Custis died without a will, so his widow received a “dower share” – the lifetime use of one third of his Estate, which included at least 85 enslaved Africans.  Martha had control over these “dower” slaves, but did not have the legal power to sell or free them.  Upon Martha’s marriage to George Washington in 1759, the dower slaves came with her to Mount Vernon, including Betty, Oney’s mother to be.

Under Virginia colonial law the legal status of a child was the same as that of the enslaved mother, no matter who the father was.  Because Betty was a dower slave, Oney also was a dower slave, owned by the Custis Estate.  Upon the completion of his indenture, Andrew Judge, her father settled in Alexandria, Virginia, some 11 miles away.

At about age 10, Oney was brought to live at the Mansion House at Mount Vernon, likely as a playmate for Martha Washington’s granddaughter Nelly Custis.  She eventually became the personal attendant or body servant to Martha Washington.

George Washington took Oney, then 16 years old to New York City along with six other slaves to work in the Presidential household.  All eventually moved to Philadelphia with Washington when the national capital was transferred there in 1790.

Now Pennsylvania was the first state to enact an emancipation law for all of its slaves.  In 1780 Pennsylvania required the registration of all slaves of its residents.  They would remain slaves but any of their children would be born free, resulting in gradual emancipation.  Non-residents, such as George Washington, a slaveholder from another state could reside in Pennsylvania with his personal slaves for up to six months, but if those slaves were held in Pennsylvania beyond that deadline, the law gave them the power to free themselves.

A 1788 amendment to the state law closed loopholes – such as prohibiting a Pennsylvania slaveholder from transporting a pregnant woman out of the state (so the child would be born enslaved) and prohibiting a non-resident slaveholder from rotating his slaves in and out of the state to prevent them from establishing the six-month Pennsylvania residency required to qualify for freedom.  This last point would affect the lives of Oney Judge and the other President’s house slaves.

Washington contended (privately) that his presence in Philadelphia was solely a consequence of the city’s being the temporary seat of the federal government.  He held that he remained a resident of Virginia, and should not be bound by Pennsylvania law regarding slavery.  Attorney General Edmund Randolph – misunderstood the Pennsylvania law and lost his personal slaves after they established a six-month residency and claimed their freedom.

Randolph immediately warned Washington to prevent the President’s House slaves from doing the same, advising him to interrupt their residency by sending them out of the state.  Such a rotation was a violation of the 1788 amendment, but Washington’s actions were not challenged. He continued to rotate the President’s House slaves in and out of Pennsylvania throughout his presidency.  He also was careful never to spend six continuous months in Pennsylvania himself, which could be interpreted as establishing legal residency.  At least once Martha Washington took Oney to Trenton New Jersey for two days to interrupt her six month residency in Pennsylvania.

Judge fled as the Washingtons were preparing to return to Virginia for a short trip between sessions of Congress.  Martha Washington had informed her that she was to be given as a wedding present to the First Lady’s granddaughter.   Judge recalled in an 1845 interview:

“Whilst they were packing up to go to Virginia, I was packing to go, I didn’t know where; for I knew that if I went back to Virginia, I should never get my liberty. I had friends among the colored people of Philadelphia, had my things carried there beforehand, and left Washington’s house while they were eating dinner.”

The President of the United States wanted his slave returned. Runaway advertisements in Philadelphia newspapers document Judge’s escape to freedom from the President’s House on May 21, 1796.

Oney was secretly placed aboard the Nancy, a ship piloted by Captain John Bowles and escaped to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  She may have thought she had found safe haven, but that summer she was recognized on the streets of Portsmouth by Elizabeth Langdon, the teenage daughter of N. H. Senator John Langdon and a friend of Nelly Custis.  Washington knew of Judge’s whereabouts by September 1, when he wrote to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., the Secretary of the Treasury, about having her captured and returned by ship.

At Wolcott’s request, Joseph Whipple, Portsmouth’s collector of customs, interviewed Judge and reported back to him.  The plan to capture her was abandoned after Whipple warned that news of an abduction could cause a riot on the docks by supporters of abolition.  Whipple refused to place Judge on a ship against her will, but relayed to Wolcott her offer to return voluntarily to the Washingtons if they would guarantee to free her following their deaths.

An indignant Washington responded himself to Whipple: “I regret that the attempt you made to restore the Girl (Oney Judge as she called herself while with us, and who, without the least provocation absconded from her Mistress) should have been attended with so little Success.  To enter into such a compromise with her, as she suggested to you, is totally inadmissible, for reasons that must strike at first view: for however well disposed I might be to a gradual abolition, or even to an entire emancipation of that description of People (if the latter was in itself practicable at this moment) it would neither be politic or just to reward unfaithfulness with a premature preference [of freedom]; and thereby discontent before hand the minds of all her fellow-servants who by their steady attachments are far more deserving than herself of favor.”

Washington retired from the presidency in March 1797.  His nephew, Burwell Bassett traveled to New Hampshire on business in September 1798, and tried to convince her to return.  By this point she was married to a seaman named Jack Staines (who was away at sea) and was the mother of an infant.  Bassett met with her, but she refused to return to Virginia with him. Bassett was Senator Langdon’s houseguest that night, and over dinner he revealed his plan to kidnap her.  This time Langdon helped Oney Judge Staines, secretly sending word for her to immediately go into hiding.  Bassett returned to Virginia without her.

Washington could have used the federal courts to recover Judge Staines — the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act (which he had signed into law) required a legal process to return an escaped slave over state lines.  Any court case, however, would have been part of the public record, and attracted unwelcome attention.

Interviews with Oney Judge Staines were published in the May 1845 issue of The Granite Freeman and the January 1847 issue of The Liberator, both abolitionist newspapers.  They contained a wealth of details about her life.  She described the Washingtons, their attempts to capture her, her opinions on slavery, her pride in having learned to read, and her strong religious faith.

When asked whether she was sorry that she left the Washingtons, since she labored so much harder after her escape than before, she said: “No, I am free, and have, I trust been made a child of God by the means.”

She remained a fugitive slave in New Hampshire all of her life.  When George Washington died, concerned with his reputation, he freed all of his slaves but he did not own the dower slaves belonging to his wife.  When Martha Washington died the dower slaves reverted to the Custis Estate and were awarded to other descendants of her family.

Oney Judge Staines was never freed but she escaped to New Hampshire and lived free.

Source: Oney Judge – For Black History Month | toritto


In the News

Frederick Douglass, Refugee
David Blight, Feb 7, 2017, The Atlantic

Frederick Douglass, author, orator, editor, and most important African American leader of the 19th century, was a dangerous illegal immigrant. Well, in 1838 he escaped a thoroughly legal system of enslavement to the tenuous condition of fugitive resident of a northern state that had outlawed slavery, but could only protect his “freedom” outside of the law.

Douglass’s life and work serve as a striking symbol of one of the first major refugee crises in our history. From the 1830s through the 1850s, the many thousands of runaway slaves, like Douglass, who escaped into the North, into Canada, or Mexico put enormous pressure on those places’ political systems. The presence and contested status of fugitive slaves polarized voters in elections; they were the primary subject of major legislation such as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 as well as Supreme Court decisions such as Dred Scott v. Sanford in 1857. They were at the heart of a politics of fear in the 1850s that led to disunion. Among the many legacies of Douglass’s life and writings alive today, one of the most potent is his role as an illegal migrant and very public abolitionist orator and journalist posing as a free black citizen in slaveholding America.



Yale Will Drop John Calhoun’s Name From Building
Noah Remnick, Feb. 11, 2017, The New York TimesAfter a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”



President Trump recently described Frederick Douglass as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” The president’s muddled tense – it came out sounding as if the 19th-century abolitionist were alive with a galloping Twitter following – provoked some mirth on social media. But the spotlight on one of America’s great moral heroes is a welcome one.

Douglass was born on a plantation in Eastern Maryland in 1817 or 1818 – he did not know his birthday, much less have a long-form birth certificate – to a black mother (from whom he was separated as a boy) and a white father (whom he never knew and who was likely the “master” of the house). He was parceled out to serve different members of the family. His childhood was marked by hunger and cold, and his teen years passed in one long stretch of hard labor, coma-like fatigue, routine floggings, hunger, and other commonplace tortures from the slavery handbook.

At 20, he ran away to New York and started his new life as an anti-slavery orator and activist. Acutely conscious of being a literary witness to the inhumane institution he had escaped, he made sure to document his life in not one but three autobiographies. His memoirs bring alive the immoral mechanics of slavery and its weapons of control. Chief among them: food.



THE MIX in 2017 | Challenges and WHY NOW? | LOOKING BACK AT 2016

cropped-typewriter.jpgBy Trace Hentz (Mix co-editor)

Happy 3rd Anniversary to THE MIX!

We’re back for our third year of bringing you stories about living our mixed ancestry and the stories and history that relate to this WIDE subject/topic.

We’ve published many first-person narratives and want to see many many more on this e-mag/blog.

mixed bannerI want to share an OP-ED I wrote for LAST REAL INDIANS in early December.  It’s all about His-Story and how that relates to systemic racism in America, in the IVY LEAGUE schools with their historians.  There are good historians, definitely, but for too long, they  (Euro-white) colonized and dominated the narrative with one-sided victories.  That has to change.  That must change.  It’s the biggest challenge we face.  Let’s all begin to de-colonize His-STORY.  Divisions hurt us all.

“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” ― James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985

conf-banner-1-1History Snobs ask WHY NOW?  READ HERE

We are always at a new crossroad, it seems.  2o17 will be no different.

Ancestry is not race.  Race is an invention. Race is the child of racism. Racism exists, while race does not.

IMPORTANT READ:  Collective Statement by U.S. History Scholars on Civil Rights and Liberties in Dangerous Times Petition | The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition

WE ARE ALL RELATED – for real!

If you wish to write something for the MIX, please email me:

featherTrace L Hentz is co-editor of the MIX and the author of One Small Sacrifice: A Memoir and other non-fiction books on the topic of The Indian Adoption Projects, adoption history and American Indian adoptees.  She is a mix of American Indian: Shawnee-Cherokee and French Canadian/Irish.   Her husband Herb is a mix of African-American and American Indian, born and raised in Harlem.  Her BLOG



The year we played ourselves. “Now is the time to resist the slightest extension in the boundaries of what is right and just.”  The black person’s burden of managing white emotions.  Hannah Arendt and making sense of overt racism.**  Not everything is “fake news“—the problem is also waning trust in real reporting.  How to self-check the news.  Step one: Be skeptical while on Facebook and Google.  Remembering the trans women killed in the Oakland fire.   Civil servants might be our last line of defense.  The Trump kids’ ongoing inheritance.  A photojournalist on covering Duterte’s killing spree in the Philippines (with a warning: Really graphic photos are included).  “I was born white but I try to choose to be Jewish.”  Central Park was once a thriving free black community.  What race has to do with redistrictingMemes don’t matter. Two days later, the Times published an article in its Arts & Culture section titled “Memes, Myself, and I: The Internet Lets Us All Run the Campaign.

**And then, Trump appeared on our television screens as a Republican Party presidential candidate.  Before he arrived, the word “racism” most often appeared in mainstream discourse with institutional preceding it.  Racism understood as consciously held and expressed racist beliefs and sentiments, many scholars suggested, was largely a thing of the past.  The story went that, today, the majority of whites are really committed to racial equality.  Racial injustice (not racism, mind you) persists because inadvertent mind bugs, that is, implicit biases and unconsciously held beliefs, impact their actions without their consent.  Racial injustice in the contemporary moment was just our racist past haunting us.

The Rebirth of a Nation


By Jill Lepore for THE NEW YORKER

“The American soil is full of the corpses of my ancestors,” James Baldwin said in 1965, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. “What one begs the American people to do, for all our sakes, is simply to accept our history,” Baldwin said.

A half century later, that acceptance still hasn’t come.  “There’s a desperate sanitization of history,” Nate Parker said in a Q. & A. after a screening of his new film, “The Birth of a Nation,” at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  Parker, thirty-six, is the film’s writer and director, and he stars as Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831.  He finished making the film last year, a hundred years after the release of D. W. Griffith’s silent film “The Birth of a Nation,” a tribute to the Ku Klux Klan.  Last week, Fox Searchlight acquired distribution rights for Parker’s film for $17.5 million, a Sundance record.  At the screening I attended, the audience gave Parker at least four standing ovations; I lost count, and, I figure, the title alone easily deserves about a hundred.

“The Birth of a Nation” won Sundance’s U.S. dramatic film grand-jury prize, and its audience award, too.  People are excited about Parker’s film, which has been a long time in the making.  Parker worked on it for seven years.   But the wait has been a lot longer than that.  There has never been a truly great film about an American slave rebellion, or even about American slavery.  Still, despite the record-breaking deal and the countless ovations, there will likely be a certain amount of cynicism about this one.  Last month, after the Oscar-nomination whiteout, Trevor Noah and Roy Wood, Jr., talked on “The Daily Show” about how the only films about black people that win nominations are those about slavery and racial oppression, although usually only white people involved in those film win prizes. (In 2013, Quentin Tarantino won a best-screenplay Oscar for his disturbed and exploitative rebel-slave film, “Django Unchained,” and Christoph Waltz won a best-supporting- actor award for his portrayal of a bounty hunter.)  During their conversation, Noah and Wood reimagined “Straight Outta Compton,” whose only nomination was for its two white screenwriters, as an Oscar contender called “Straight Outta Cotton,” in which, instead of rapping “Fuck the Police,” N.W.A. hums slave spirituals.  All you need, Noah and Wood said, is to drizzle some “slavery sauce” on a film and it’ll win.  They had a point, but they also missed one.

Parker didn’t write a film about Nat Turner because he wanted to please the Academy.  He wrote a film about Turner because he wants Americans to stare, hard, at the corpses of our ancestors and to finally, finally, bury our dead.

Keep Reading

Jill Lepore is a staff writer and a professor of history at Harvard.  “The Secret History of Wonder Woman” is her latest book.

Top Photo: Nate Parker,  WIKI

About the FILM


Might Yale rename a college to honor a beloved student, instead of a 19th century slavery proponent?

 By Isaac Stanley-Becker | The Washington Post January 29, 2016

In the debate underway at Yale University over whether a residential community should continue to bear the name of John C. Calhoun, the fraught question is not simply whether to banish the current title but what to put in its place.

The matter has taken on new urgency — at Yale and nationally — after student protest last fall cast a harsh light on the university’s racial climate, epitomized for some by Calhoun College, named in the 1930s for the 1804 graduate of Yale College who provided much of the intellectual foundation for the Confederacy.

The decisions about the name ultimately belong to the Yale Corp., the university’s governing body, which this week held “listening sessions” to gather community input on Calhoun, as well as names for the two new residential colleges scheduled to open in 2017.

Read more:

In the News: America’s Other Original Sin

Calhoun portraits removed

David Yaffe-Bellany | January 25, 2016| Yale Daily News

The students eating breakfast in the Calhoun College dining hall on Friday morning were not gathered there to witness the removal of a widely loathed work of 19th-century portraiture. They were focused more on oatmeal and coffee than on the vexed history of race at Yale.

But at about 10:50 a.m., Calhoun Master Julia Adams entered the dining hall, trailed by two men with a ladder and some bubble wrap, art technicians trained to haul priceless paintings from place to place. They had come to take down the glowering portrait of outspoken slavery advocate John C. Calhoun (photo) that had hung on the back wall since the 1930s.

Read more:


 America’s Other Original Sin

Europeans didn’t just displace Native Americans—they enslaved them, and encouraged tribes to participate in the slave trade, on a scale historians are only beginning to fathom.

By Rebecca Onion | Slate | January 18, 2016

Between 1670 and 1715, more Indians were exported into slavery through Charles Town than Africans were imported.

Here are three scenes from the history of slavery in North America. In 1637, a group of Pequot Indians, men and boys, having risen up against English colonists in Connecticut and been defeated, were sold to plantations in the West Indies in exchange for African slaves, allowing the colonists to remove a resistant element from their midst. (The tribe’s women were pressed into service in white homes in New England, where domestic workers were sorely lacking.) In 1741, an 800-foot-long coffle of recently enslaved Sioux Indians, procured by a group of Cree, Assiniboine, and Monsoni warriors, arrived in Montreal, ready for sale to French colonists hungry for domestic and agricultural labor.  And in 1837, Cherokee Joseph Vann, expelled from his land in Georgia during the era of Indian removal, took at least 48 enslaved black people along with him to Indian Territory.  By the 1840s, Vann was said to have owned hundreds of enslaved black laborers, as well as racehorses and a side-wheeler steamboat.

A reductive view of the American past might note two major, centuries-long historical sins: the enslavement of stolen Africans and the displacement of Native Americans.  In recent years, a new wave of historians of American slavery has been directing attention to the ways these sins overlapped.  The stories they have uncovered throw African slavery—still the narrative that dominates our national memory—into a different light, revealing that the seeds of that system were sown in earlier attempts to exploit Native labor.  The record of Native enslavement also shows how the white desire to put workers in bondage intensified the chaos of contact, disrupting intertribal politics and creating uncertainty and instability among people already struggling to adapt to a radically new balance of power.  (TOP PHOTO)

Read more:


What Divides Us?: An Interview with Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway

YALE in Connecticut

By Jelani Cobb | The New Yorker | November 15, 2015

Amid the many conversations these past two weeks about racism and free speech at Yale University, one moment stood out.  In November, hundreds gathered and expressed their grievances about the treatment of students of color to Jonathan Holloway, the first African-American dean of Yale College.  Holloway, a historian of civil rights, is at the center of a campus conflict about liberalism and education as well as the meaning of an inclusive community.  We spoke to him about the origins of the protests and their implications for other institutions. 

Can you describe what the climate is on campus now?

I can’t speak to the graduate professional students because I don’t work with them.  The undergraduates are, well, exhausted.  What I think they are feeling is that they are part of something larger than their own existence, with all these rallies happening across the country—that they are living a very special moment.

I understand that. This is not just a black problem or a brown problem or a women’s problem or whatever. We are seeing a generation of students, and I don’t know why, who do seem less resilient than in the past. I think part of it is that things aren’t mediated like they have been in the past. You don’t have the luxury of sitting down and pondering what somebody just said, because you’re too busy putting it into a Tweet and saying, “This is an outrage.” There’s no mediation of ideas. It’s all off the top of my head and it’s pain, in this case.

Read more:

Lux et Vertitas


I’ve been called “white-washed” when I didn’t speak with a Jackie Chan accent and was called “too Asian” when I brought rice dishes to school. I’ve been called “Ching” and “Chong” and everything in between.

But the debate on the merits of whether or not people should be offended has clouded the most important observation in the recent protests: that college campuses are the epicenter of this awakening.

College Campuses and the “Subtle Racist”

Yale University’s motto is “Lux et Vertitas,” which is Latin for “light and truth.”  It’s actually a perfect mantra: modest, clear and direct.  For most of us, college is not just a venue for learning Keynesian economics or hyper-analyzing the rhetoric of Thomas Paine’s letters.  There’s immense social discovery that comes with navigating the first stages of life as an independent person.

For this reason it makes perfect sense that a national conversation on race would rumble beneath the campuses across the country. The simultaneous outburst of tension at Mizzou and Yale is even more remarkable when considering that one is a public school in a state where the Ferguson riots took place while the other is a prestigious private school in liberal New England.  Together, they represent all corners of the country and paint an ugly portrait of our nation where it’s apparent that racism exists.  Everywhere.



OP-ED: The University Of Missouri right now is a powder keg.

Student Protests: Alone Together

Being a minority has been hard for me.  Thinking about my place in society and on my college campus leads to me stressing out about things that I wish weren’t a big deal—or a deal at all, like making white friends and worrying about their acceptance of me.  Flirting with white boys and wondering if they even find me attractive.  Overhearing racial slurs and fighting the urge to go off on a rant.  I don’t know what to do when drunk people at parties react negatively—or at all—to my cultural or religious or social beliefs, or when (white) students openly disagree with my feelings about racism. I wish that there was more I could do to eradicate ignorance, and there are times when being in the diversity club and making my voice heard during class discussions doesn’t feel like it’s enough.  It helps to know that there are people who understand what it’s like to be a minority here, and what it’s like to be afraid of speaking up about it.  It helps to know that there are people who will listen, no matter how small the group. ♦ KEEP READING


Fortune Magazine: Missouri College Students

Last week, the University of Missouri’s president resigned over allegations of turning a blind eye to racial tensions on its Columbia campus.  Yale University is in the headlines for racial insensitivity claims among students, and the dean of students at Clarement McKenna College stepped down last Thursday amidst accusations of racism.  Similar protests and grievances are popping up at universities across the country, all of which seem to result in similar promises.

At Missouri, the administration publicly stated its plan to hire a diversity officer who will oversee racial issues among students and faculty, and then hired an interim black president. Yale’s president recently announced a plan to spend $50 million over the next five years to increase diversity on campus via targeted recruitment of minority faculty and students.  READ Diversity Disaster

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