Dismissal of African-Americans’ Service During Philadelphia’s 1793 Yellow Fever Epidemic Has Important Lessons for All Oppressed Groups

Erica Armstrong Dunbar‘s book Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge mentions Philadelphia’s 1793 yellow fever epidemic, an important episode from the early history of the United States. Read here:

African-Americans Service During Yellow Fever 1

African-Americans Service During Yellow Fever 2

African-Americans Service During Yellow Fever 3

Professor Dunbar speculates that the enslaved Ona Judge came one step closer to absconding from her masters, George Washington, the first President of the United States, and his wife Martha, upon realizing how black Philadelphians’ attempt to win the favor of whites through dangerous service during the epidemic not only failed to bring blacks closer to equality but, whites’ white supremacist ideas caused whites to interpret events in a way that strengthened their beliefs in white supremacy.

Some 225 years later, I hope all those who want to join the corporate imperialism-supporting USA military, “reform” the police, salute the “Founding Fathers,” soften demands for Palestinian liberation, clap loudly when politicians who’ve orchestrated the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and assassination operations throw them some rhetorical bone and other performances of loyalty in the hope of achieving equality in the United States will reevaluate their positions.

The book, btw, is an excellent introduction into the centrality of slave labor in the British colonies of North America and its child, the United States of America. The author does an excellent job of reconstructing how Ona Judge’s life might have been and demonstrating the constraints slavery, white supremacy and patriarchy imposed on her.

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