History Matters: The story behind ‚ÄėLost Boundaries‚Äô

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-03-06 21:11Z by Steven

History Matters: The story behind ‚ÄėLost Boundaries‚Äô

The Portsmouth Herald (Seacoast Online)
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
2018-03-05

J. Dennis Robinson

Albert Johnston Jr. was 16 when he found out he was black. His fair-skinned African-American parents had been ‚Äúpassing‚ÄĚ as white, they told him, since moving from Chicago to rural Gorham, New Hampshire, and later to Keene. Albert‚Äôs father had been the town‚Äôs country doctor with 2,500 white patients and an active member of the school board, the Masons and the Rotary. His mother, Thyra, was a two-time president of the Gorham Women‚Äôs Club and active in the Congregational Church.

Born in 1925, growing up skiing the White Mountains of the Granite State, Albert had only a single black acquaintance in high school. In an era of widespread racial segregation and discrimination, Albert felt a seismic shift as he adapted from a dark-skinned Caucasian to a light-skinned ‚ÄúNegro.‚ÄĚ

Then Albert took a road trip. Two decades before Ken Kesey and Easy Rider, with only a few dollars in their pockets, Albert and an old school chum named Walt hitchhiked and hopped freight trains from New Hampshire to California. For Albert, it was a spiritual journey into the homes of his long-lost African-American relatives and into the roots of black culture. For Walt, who was white, it was a great adventure with a good friend. Albert eventually found his way home. Renewed and focused, he enrolled in the well-regarded music program at the University of New Hampshire.

And here, in a UNH college lounge in front of 20 fellow students, Albert Johnston Jr. finally laid his burden down. During a seminar on the ‚Äúrace problem‚ÄĚ in America, the topic turned to ‚Äúcross-bred‚ÄĚ people. He could offer some insight on that topic, Albert told his classmates, because he, himself, was a Negro.

The room got very still, he later recalled, like the sudden silence after the climax of a concerto. The Johnston family secret was about to explode, first into the pages of Reader‚Äôs Digest magazine, and then as a controversial book and feature film called ‚ÄúLost Boundaries.‚ÄĚ…

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Portsmouth’s Ona Judge is famous at last

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2017-04-13 00:04Z by Steven

Portsmouth’s Ona Judge is famous at last

The Portsmouth Herald
2017-04-03

J. Dennis Robinson


Recently thrust into celebrity, Ona Judge was enslaved by George and Martha Washington. Ona quietly escaped the President’s House in Philadelphia in 1796 and lived as a seamstress in Greenland, New Hampshire. Washington described the runaway in a newspaper as “a light mulatto girl, much freckled.” This illustration by Emily Arnold McCully appears on the cover of her children’s book, “The Escape of Oney Judge,” published by Scholastic Press.
[Courtesy photo]

It‚Äôs about time America learned her name. Enslaved by George and Martha Washington, a young Ona Judge fled to Portsmouth in 1796. A skilled seamstress, Ona Judge lived the rest of her long life in the shadows ‚ÄĒ impoverished, independent and defiant. Her presumed burial site remains obscure and unmarked on private land in nearby Greenland. But the story of a young black woman who resisted a president is finally being told ‚ÄĒ and told again.

Today you can read about Ona Judge (1773-1848) in The New York Times. You can hear her story on National Public Radio, watch her on a National Geographic special, or find her on popular websites like History.com and CNN. Ona is featured in ‚ÄúLives Bound Together,‚ÄĚ a special exhibit of more than 300 enslaved Africans at Mount Vernon. She is portrayed by re-enactors from New Hampshire to Virginia, and her story is told at the site of the President‚Äôs House in Philadelphia, where she made her daring solo escape from the Washingtons at age 20.

The big news for Ona, and for American history, is the success of a runaway bestseller titled ‚ÄúNever Caught, The Washingtons‚Äô Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.‚ÄĚ Author Erica Armstrong Dunbar, examines the first president‚Äôs use of ‚Äúhuman property‚ÄĚ from the slave‚Äôs point of view…

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