February 15, 2023
Presented by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Rutgers University .
Black History Month Keynote
When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household he brought along nine slaves, including Ona Judge. As the president grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t abide: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.
Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, she was denied freedom. So, when the opportunity presented itself one clear and pleasant spring day in Philadelphia, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs. At just twenty-two-years-old, Judge became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property.
This event is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Office of the President; the Office of Equity & Inclusion; the Division of Student Life; the Popel Shaw Center for Race & Ethnicity; the House Divided Project; the Women’s & Gender Resource Center, the Department of Africana Studies; and Department of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies; and the Law & Policy Program.
For more information, visit https://www.clarkeforum.org/wednesday-february-15-2023/