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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: February 18, 2019 08:45 PM
From: Representative Christopher M. Rabb
To: All House members
Subject: Honoring the life of Ona Judge
So self-conscious were the founding fathers of the fundament paradox of establishing a free, democratic nation whose economy and social fabric rested on enslaved labor and the myth of white supremacy that the word “slavery” cannot be found in either the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution prior to the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

There are few greater personifications of this existential paradox than Ona Judge, a woman who dared to be free — even if it meant fleeing enslavement from George and Martha Washington, our nation’s idyllic first couple.

This resolution recognizes one of Pennsylvania’s most courageous residents, Ona Maria Judge Staines, who lived in Pennsylvania from 1790 to 1796, and was brought to the city of Philadelphia as an enslaved maid to George and Martha Washington.

She is one of the most under-studied fugitive from slavery in America who, at the age of twenty-two, literally stole herself from the Washingtons. She forced the first president of the United States to show his slave-catching hand, and as a fugitive Judge would test the president’s will and reputation.

Her story is significant for it reminds us of the untold number of Africans who were kidnapped, tortured, and faced the degradation of the auction block. 2019 is a year that will commemorate the forced arrival of Africans in Jamestown, Virginia; a reminder of the human trafficking that existed within the United States for hundreds of years.

Ona Maria Judge Staines was caught in this web of human trafficking, and like millions of others she survived. She is an American hero; an enslaved girl born at Mount Vernon who once exposed to Black Freedom in Pennsylvania, was compelled to pursue it at any cost.

This was a woman who found the courage to defy the President of the United States, the wit to find allies, to escape, to out negotiate, to run, and to survive. Her story is the only existing account of a fugitive once held by the Washingtons.

Her life exposes the sting of slavery and the drive of defiance. Ona Maria Judge Staines fought for what she believed to be her right: Freedom.

Although she was forced to live as a fugitive for nearly fifty years in New Hampshire, this brave woman told her story to two abolitionist newspapers. Her life will never be forgotten and reminds us of the power of protest and the never ending search for liberty.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this resolution in her honor.

Introduced as HR982