Slave owned by George Washington honored in Mount Vernon

Laurel Ridge Elementary students with their teacher Maura Keaney honor Ona Judge, a former slave, during a marker unveiling. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)

Laurel Ridge Elementary students with their teacher Maura Keaney honor Ona Judge, a former slave, during a marker unveiling. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)

(WTOP/Melissa Howell)
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Local leaders, students and visitors gathered Saturday at Mount Vernon in Virginia to honor Ona Judge, a slave owned by George Washington who fled to freedom in 1796.

“I’m certain that neither she, nor her family, ever imagined she would find a way to live a life unchained,” said Erica Armstrong Dunbar, an author and historian.

Dunbar unveiled the historical marker honoring Judge during a ceremony on Juneteenth, the newly declared federal holiday on June 19. Juneteenth commemorates the day when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Judge was nominated by a group of Laurel Ridge Elementary School students during the Black History Month Historical Marker Contest.

Dunbar called the historical marker a reminder of the importance of truth telling and education.

“Visitors who come will drive past this marker. They will read it and they will say her name,” Dunbar said.

Teacher Maura Keaney spoke at the event, thanking her students for their willingness to dig deep into history.

“Children have a very deep interest in fairness and justice,” Keaney said. “We need to embrace that. We need to harness this feeling that they have of correcting injustices.”

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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