J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Dunbar on Ona Judge in Portsmouth, 5 March

On Sunday, 5 March, Erica Armstrong Dunbar will speak in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, about her new book Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.

I wrote about the first President using resources of the federal government to chase Judge (also called Oney Judge) here. There’s much more to her story. Shana L. Haines’s review of this book at the Junto states:
Judge’s story has long been an interesting footnote, paragraph, or article. Unlike many references to Judge, Dunbar’s comprehensive treatment presents Judge as a fully fleshed out human being grappling with the dehumanization of slavery and the complexities of freedom. For both scholars of Early American slavery and the general public, Judge is being reintroduced as an important figure in our understanding of Early American slavery and resistance. Through Dunbar’s empathetic and well-researched biography, the woman whose safety and freedom in eighteenth-century America depended upon remaining hidden, is finally given prominence in her own story rather than as aside to the Washingtons. . . .

Dunbar uses runaway slave notices, Washington’s own diaries and letters, and archival information about slave laws, politics, and abolitionist practices to weave a tense and suspenseful tale of Judge’s game of cat and mouse. Within this fugitive slave narrative is also embedded the emotional toll of separation from family and the physical and economic realities of day-to-day living for black women in the early republic. As America was wrestling with how to implement its Constitutional principles, Judge was forging marriage, motherhood, and community through resilience and courage.
Judge settled in Portsmouth, making her story local as well as national. The Portsmouth Historical Society is hosting Prof. Dunbar’s talk as part of a two-hour program:
  • 2:00 P.M.: Gwendolyn Quezaire-Presutti portrays Ona Judge in a living-history performance.
  • 2:30: Author presentation.
  • 3:15: Q. & A.
This event will take place at the Temple Israel Social Hall at 200 State Street from 2:00 to 4:00 P.M. It is free and open to the public.

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