Weekly Feature: Learn about the hobbies, careers, and passions of characters in fiction books. I’m pleased to introduce my first guest, author friend Diana Rubino…
ONEY, MY ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY by Diana Rubino
Ona Maria Judge, known as Oney, was Martha Washington’s house slave. With the help of free blacks, she escaped, never to be recaptured. Her passion can be summed up in one word: freedom.
“I am a mulatto, and light-skinned enough to pass for white. My father, Andrew Judge, was a white indentured servant who got his freedom when I was a child. My mother, Betty, was a seamstress, and another slave of the Washingtons.
“Whenever I saw free blacks, an anger churned in my heart. Why are they free and me not? It was not fair that I was a slave. Although as Mrs. Washington’s waiting made I was not subject to any hardships, I was still her property. No human being should be property. Slavery is evil, and the Washingtons, who never said the word ‘slave’, were two-faced. What galled me was that Mrs. Washington said she felt like a slave, confined to the house whilst Mr. Washington went on travels. When I saw no progress towards emancipation of slaves, it made me more determined to master my craft so I could be self-sufficient someday. I became an expert seamstress.
“I planned my escape with the help of free blacks. It took over a year to plan the right time and to make sure a ship was leaving to bring me to freedom. But I hastened my escape when Mrs. Washington told me I’d make a nice wedding gift to her granddaughter Eliza, I thought she meant I’d sew her a negligee or a quilt for a wedding gift. But, no, she meant I’d be the gift.
“I swore whatever wedding gifts she gave to Miz Eliza, one of them would not be I.
“Whilst they were packing up to go to Virginia, I was packing to go, I didn’t know where; for I knew that if I went back to Virginia, I should never get my liberty. I had friends among the colored people of Philadelphia, had my things carried there beforehand, and on May 21, 1796, as the Washingtons ate dinner, I walked straight past them and out the front door. When I shut it, I left them—and my forced bondage— behind me.
“They knew I went to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and tried to get me captured a few times, but gave up. I am free now and choose to remain so.”
ONEY: My Escape From Slavery is a painstakingly re-imagined account of a true and painful story told generations on. At its heart is the paradox of liberty – for an individual, for a race, for a nation. In a modern world where cultures and histories collide, it is a timely reminder of perspectives on ‘slavery’ and ‘freedom’ that we may have become blind to. It is a big, strong, uplifting book with a soul.
The hour finally came—while they ate dinner.
Nothing heavied my heart—not remorse, not guilt, not sadness upon fleeing my master and mistress. Raw thirst for freedom overcame all that. I walked straight past the Washingtons and out that door. When I shut it, I left them—and my forced bondage— behind me.
I tore through the muddy streets in pouring rain. Gasping for breath, soaked to the skin, my heart slamming in terror, I glanced behind me, again and again. No one pursued me—yet. I dreaded and expected pounding footsteps, a clap on my shoulder. But, I asked myself, who would chase me through the driving rain? No, it is not possible, I affirmed—they didn’t even know I’d left the kitchen.
At the Jones house I slowed and caught my breath. When Absalom opened the door, I staggered inside, laughing, sobbing, gulping for dear life.
I spent the night pacing the attic room, hands clasped. “I beg of you, dear God, walk beside me on this journey. See me through this safe. Don’t let them capture me. I only want to be your servant, no one else’s.”
As daybreak nudged away the darkness, I fell to my knees, weary with fatigue. “Thank you, dear God, for ending my final night of bondage.”
Mary forced a hoe cake down me and hugged me goodbye. Clinging to her, I poured my heart out. “I’m still a-scared, Mary, no matter what courage I got, I’m still a-scared.” I loved Mary so, but wished I’d been hugging Mamma right now.
“I know you are, dear, but you’ve got protection. And your freedom is worth a bit of fear.”
Purchase ONEY from Amazon: getbook.at/OneyJudge
Diana’s favorite eras are Medieval and Renaissance England and all American history. A longtime member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society, and the Aaron Burr Association, she recently completed a romantic thriller about Alexander Hamilton and biographical novels about Eliza Jumel Burr and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wife Sophia.