Philadelphia in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Enslaved Africans in the Household of George and Martha Washington
At various times during Washington's stay in Philadelphia, nine enslaved Africans were known to have lived and worked here at the President's House. They were dynamic participants in the daily life of the presidential household and the surrounding city. Painstaking research by modern scholars provides us with a glimpse into the lives of these people. The brief biographies that follow help us better understand their lives. They also serve to represent the thousands of free and enslaved people of African descent who lived and toiled here in Philadelphia and who helped build a new nation.
Austin, half brother of Ona Judge. He died on December 20, 1794, after a fall from a horse while returning to Mt. Vernon, leaving a wife and five children.
Christopher Sheets attempted to escape from Mt. Vernon in 1799, but was unsuccessful. His fate after Martha Washington's death in 1802 is unknown.
Giles was a driver, postillion, and stable hand. He returned to Mt. Vernon in 1791, after being injured in an accident during Washington's tour of the southern states. He died before 1799.
Joe (Richardson) is mentioned in 1795 as "Postillion Joe," although his time in Philadelphia is uncertain. He was married to a woman freed (along with their children) after Washington's death, whereupon the family took the name Richardson.
Moll was nursemaid to Martha Washington's two grandchildren. She also served as nursemaid to Martha's children, from her first marriage and later at Mt. Vernon.
Ona/Oney Judge was, like her mother, a talented seamstress. She became Martha Washington's personal maid as a teenager. In 1796, Ona seized her freedom and escaped to New Hampshire, where she lived until her death in 1848. In New Hampshire, she married a free black sailor named Jack Staines and had three children, who all died before her.
Paris was a young stable hand. He was returned to Mt. Vernon in 1791 for "unsatisfactory behavior" and died in 1794.
Richmond came to Philadelphia at the age of 11 with his father, Hercules. He worked in the kitchen briefly but returned to Mt. Vernon in 1791. His later fate is unknown.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Abolition & Underground RR • African Americans. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #01 George Washington series list. A significant historical month for this entry is December 1999.
Location. 39° 57.029′ N, 75° 9.01′ W. Marker is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia County. Marker is at the intersection of Market Street and 6th Street, on the left when traveling west on Market Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Philadelphia PA 19106, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The President's House Site 1790-1800 (here, next to this marker); Archeology Methods and Interpretation (here, next to this marker); The President's House - Washington and Adams (here, next to this marker); Chef Hercules (here, next to this marker); Contagion and Liberty (here, next to this marker); Mount Vernon to Philadelphia (here, next to this marker); Strengthening Ties with the United States (here, next to this marker); Oney Escapes! (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Philadelphia.
More about this marker. The portrait on the lower left of this marker is a, "Presumed portrait of Washington's cook (Hercules), attributed to Gilbert Stuart." It is provided for the marker from the, "Collections of Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
The drawing at top right is of, "Washington and family at Mount Vernon," provided for the marker from the, "Collection of New York Public Library."
Credits. This page was last revised on August 17, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 6, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,134 times since then and 30 times this year. Last updated on August 16, 2021, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 6, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.