By Reviewer Melissa
Title: Taking Liberty: The Story of Oney Judge, George Washington's Runaway Slave
Author: Ann Rinaldi
Primary Audience/Age Group: Young Adult; ages 12-16
Genre: Historical Fiction
# of Pages: 264
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year of Release: 2002
Part of a Series? No.
Rating: 5 View Scale
The only life Oney Judge has ever known is servitude. As part of the staff of George and Martha Washington, she isn’t referred to as a slave. She is a servant-and a house servant at that, a position of influence and respect on the plantation of Mount Vernon. When she rises to the position of personal servant to Martha Washington, her status among the household staff-black and white-is second to none. She is Lady Washington’s closest confidante and, for all intents and purposes, a member of the family-or so she thinks. Slowly, Oney’s perception of her life with the Washington’s begins to crack as she realizes the truth: No matter how close she becomes with Lady Washington, no matter what secrets they share, she will never be a member of the family. And regardless of what they call it, it’s still slavery and she’s still a slave. Oney must make a choice: Does she stay where she is, comfortable, with this family that has loved her and nourished her and owned her since the day she was born? Or does she take liberty-her life-into her own hands and, like her father, become one of the Gone?
Review: Taking Liberty is the story of Oney Judge, one of George Washington’s real slaves, and how she took the freedom that was rightfully hers. Between luxury and comfort that no other slave had, Oney was satisfied with her life. Yet when her mother urges her to take liberty and never again return to Mount Vernon, Oney starts to think. With the help of a freed woman, Oney makes plans to run-before it’s too late.
Rating: 5, for a mild, yet, truthful look on slavery.
Spiritual Elements: Though Martha makes them attend church services and pray, anything that has to do with God is kept on a minimal level.
Sexual Content: None.
Recommendation: While the American Revolution is raging and George Washington is elected as the first President, there’s another war being fought in secret. The battle between slavery and freedom is told through the eyes of Oney as she recounts her life story to a reporter.
I have read many books about slaves, but Rinaldi is one of the few that exhibits the truth about how our “Founding Fathers” were pushing things like “all men are equal” and “liberty and justice for all”-Rinaldi gives you something to think about.
Rinaldi is a quite a master of detail in this autobiography style book, though some sections were a little confusing at times. The Author’s Note contains real facts about Oney Judge and various characters. Rinaldi also cites several biographies on Washington in addition to Washington's own writings about slavery.
This book would be great for a book club!