Three years earlier, one of Martha Washington’s slaves, Ona Judge, had liberated herself, slipping out of the Executive Mansion in Philadelphia and onto a ship bound for Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

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Over more than five years in Philadelphia—traveling in and out every six months—she met and became acquainted with members of the city’s free black community and former slaves who had gained their freedom under the gradual abolition law.

Such interactions undoubtedly fueled her thinking about slavery, the changing laws regarding the institution and the possibilities of freedom.

In the spring of 1796, when she was 22 years old, Judge learned that Martha Washington planned to give her away as a wedding gift to her famously temperamental granddaughter, Elizabeth Parke Custis.

As Dunbar writes, “Martha Washington’s decision to turn Judge over to Eliza was a reminder to Judge and everyone enslaved at the Executive Mansion that they had absolutely no control over their lives, no matter how loyally they served.” So, as the household prepared for the Washingtons’ return to Mount Vernon for the summer, Judge made plans for her escape.

She found lodging within the free black community, which was accustomed to aiding fugitive slaves, and supported herself doing domestic work, one of the few opportunities available for women of color.

During the summer after she escaped, Judge was walking in Portsmouth when she saw Elizabeth Langdon, the daughter of New Hampshire Senator John Langdon.On May 21, 1796, she slipped out of the mansion while the president and first lady were eating their supper.Members of the free black community helped her get aboard a ship commanded by Captain John Bowles, who sailed frequently between Philadelphia, New York and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.For female slaves, rape was an "ever present threat" and, far too often, a reality.As America’s most beloved founding father, George Washington has long been credited with having a relatively enlightened outlook on the issue of slavery.During the summer of 1850, Newsom purchased from a slave owner in neighboring Audrain County a sixth slave, a fourteen-year-old girl named Celia.