A new historical marker recognizing Ona Judge, the African-American woman who fled enslavement by the Washington household and escaped to freedom, will be unveiled at a ceremony at Mount Vernon on Juneteenth—Saturday, June 19—at 10 a.m., hosted by Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck.
The event will feature guest speakers including Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of “Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.”
Judge’s story was nominated for recognition with a historical marker by the students in Maura Keaney’s fifth grade class at Laurel Ridge Elementary School. The class wrote nomination letters as part of Gov. Ralph Northam’s Black History Month Historical Marker Contest. They will attend the ceremony along with Keaney.
According to the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Ona Judge, often called Oney by the Washingtons, was born at Mount Vernon in around 1774. She was the daughter of Betty, an enslaved seamstress living on Mansion House Farm, and Andrew Judge, a white English tailor whom Washington had hired. She fled the Washington home in Philadelphia in 1796 as they prepared to return to Virginia, eventually making her way to New Hampshire. She went on to marry and start a family, evading several attempts to recapture her over the years.
Attendees of the unveiling are also welcome to attend a noon presentation of “Freedom Skies” by Brenda Parker, Mount Vernon Character Interpreter & African American Interpretation & Special Projects Coordinator. “Freedom Skies” is a narrative reflecting the experiences of four of those freed after George Washington’s death. Told through story and song, is uses the gospel hymn “I’ll Fly Away” to bind together the stories of Frank and Lucy Lee, Caroline Branham, and Sambo Anderson on Manumission Day—January 1, 1801—when Martha Washington freed her late husband’s slaves.
“Freedom Skies” and the Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon exhibition are both free with general admission to Mount Vernon.
The marker unveiling ceremony will be streamed live on Facebook.