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The Story of Ona Judge

Ona Judge was an enslaved seamstress at Mount Vernon. She was forced to travel to and from the Presidential house in Philadelphia and eventually gained her freedom by journeying to New Hampshire in 1796. Ona remained free for the rest of her life, despite Washington's attempts to bring her back into enslavement. Scroll to learn more about her life, experiences, and resistance. 

Ona Judge

Read about how Ona Judge successfully self-emancipated from enslavement and Washington's efforts to re-enslave her. 

Read Ona's Story


Watch this three-minute video that describes Ona Judge's life, self-emancipation, and interaction with the Washingtons.

Watch Ona's Story

Character Interpretation and Telling Stories

Listen to this podcast and hear from "Ona Judge," who talks about her enslavement. The interpreter then explains how performing as a formerly enslaved person can build bridges between communities.

Listen to Ona

Researching Ona Judge

Click the link to access a collection of data about Ona Judge.

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Washington's Reaction

After Ona Judge traveled north, George Washington was angry. He wanted to re-enslave Ona. He wrote this letter describing his plans to recapture her. Despite his efforts, Ona was never recaptured and lived the rest of her life in freedom.

Washington's Frustrations


Ona Judge wasn't the only enslaved person at Mount Vernon to resist bondage. Many enslaved peoples resisted in various ways, from avoiding work to feigning illness, to seeking freedom.

Resistance at Mount Vernon

Labor in the Mansion

Before Ona Judge labored in the Presidential Mansion in Philadelphia, she worked as Martha Washington's personal maid and seamstress in the Mount Vernon Mansion.

Read about Labor in the Mansion

Back to Secondary Sources

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Secondary Sources