A powerful poem about Ona Judge's life and her self-emancipation from George Washington’s household.
Ona Judge was enslaved by the Washingtons, and served the President's wife, Martha. Ona was widely known for her excellent skills as a seamstress, and was raised alongside Washington’s grandchildren. Indeed, she was frequently mistaken for his granddaughter. This poetic biography follows her childhood and adolescence until she decides to run away.
Author Ray Anthony Shepard welcomes meaningful and necessary conversation among young readers about the horrors of slavery and the experience of house servants through call-and-response style lines. Illustrator Keith Mallett’s rich paintings include fabric collage and add further feeling and majesty to Ona’s daring escape.
With extensive backmatter, this poem may serve as a new introduction to American slavery and Ona Judge's legacy.
In a stunning picture book debut, historian Shepard pens a free verse poem addressing Ona Judge, a young Black woman who emancipated herself from George and Martha Washing-ton's ownership. Born to an enslaved Black seamstress and a white indentured servant, Ona grew up conscripted as a playmate for the Washingtons' grandchildren until she was taken from her mother at age 16 and made a personal servant to Martha Washington. Employing the refrain "Why you run Ona Judge?" Shepard crafts impactful metaphors ("You were his money walking out the door") and incisive questions, exposing the fallacy of Ona's "good" treatment by conveying the inherent dehumanization that she and other enslaved people experienced. Tonal paintings by Mallett incorporate fabric collage, lending a sense of both immediacy and historicity. An evocative portrait that keenly interrogates the structures upon which America is built. Back matter includes an author's note, timeline, bibliography, acknowledgments, and list of places to visit. Ages 3 6. \n