Martha Washington and Oney Judge Presentation
Morristown National Historical Park (NHP) is pleased to partner with the Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House for the special presentation, Martha Washington and Oney Judge – a historical actor portrayal of Martha Washington and Miss Oney Judge. The first-person presentation will be at 2 pm, Sunday, April 22, 2018 in Morristown NHP’s Washington’s Headquarters Museum, 30 Washington Place, Morristown, New Jersey. Admission is free.
Oney Judge was an enslaved woman who worked for President and Lady Washington, first in the New York City capital and later in Philadelphia, when the capital moved there. Pennsylvania Law at that time gave enslaved individuals the legal power to free themselves if they were in the state longer than six months. However, President Washington’s position was that Pennsylvania was only his residence because it was temporarily the capital, so the law was not considered applicable.
Oney Judge was actually owned by the estate of Martha Washington’s first husband. Therefore, she could not expect to be freed by George Washington’s will. Instead, she would be transferred as property to Martha’s grandchildren upon the President’s death. Oney learned that her transfer back to the south was imminent because Martha Washington intended to offer Oney as a wedding present to Martha’s granddaughter. Hearing this, Oney made a plan and carried it to fruition in 1796 by escaping north to New Hampshire on the ship, the Nancy.
Since the Fugitive Slave Act made it a federal crime to assist a runaway slave, Oney Judge lived as a fugitive for 52 years. Oney never regretted leaving the Washingtons, quoted as saying, “No, I am free and have, I trust, been made a child of God by the means.” Oney Judge married freed person John Staines, with whom she had three children, two of whom died during her lifetime. She died at age seventy-five, on February 25, 1848 in Greenland, New Hampshire.
Actors from the Historical Theater of America will portray Oney Judge (Alex Simpson) and Martha Washington (Pat Jordan).