Friday, February 24, 2017

Washington's Relentless Pursuit of his Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

Just listened to a fascinating interview on NPR's Radio Times with Marty Moss Coane. Erica Armstrong Dunbar talked about her book, Never Caught:The Washington's Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge. Though George Washington did change his mind about slavery and freed his slaves after his death, his wife did not. She owned more slaves than Washington and her attitude was quite different to her husband. She liked light-colored slaves to serve in her home as she deemed them more intelligent. Nor did she or Washington wish to deprive themselves of luxury during their lives by liberating their slaves. Ona Judge was a remarkable woman who ran away to freedom after learning she was to be 'gifted' to Martha's granddaughter. The interview made me think how superficially many of us think about slavery. Imagine spending your whole life spent as the property of another human being. Your whole life. Imagine this every day. Imagine the silent despair. How horrid. Washington was a brilliant man but in this issue he was wrong. One can't excuse him because of the times in which he lived. John and Abigail Adams found slavery abhorrent and spoke out. Washington signed the Fugitive Slave Act requiring Northern States to return runaway slaves to their masters.

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