The month of February in the US is well known for being Black History Month, but did you know that the month long remembrance that reflect s back on the important people and events of the African diaspora has roots that date back to 1926? The week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14, both of which dates black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.
Locally, the Joplin Public Library will be holding a Black History Celebration on Saturday February 22 from 1030 am until noon. At the event, Nanda Nunnelly will portray Ona Judge, who was an enslaved woman who escaped from and was relentlessly pursued by our first president, George Washington. Recently KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro spoke with Nanda Nunnelly will portray Judge and JPL’s Black History Month Celebration.
Researchers believe that Judge was born in 1773 and lived until the age of 75 when she passed away on February 25, 1848. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s when African-American and US Historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar, now a professor of at Rutgers University was researching archives on free blacks in Philadelphia in the late 1800’s. In 2017 Dunbar published “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit Of Their Runaway Slave, One Judge” which chronicles the escape of the 22-year old Judge and Martha and George’s relentless pursuit to locate what they believed was their property.
Nunnelly started portraying Judge a couple of years ago after she read Dunbar’s book, Never Caught and was inspired to informs others about her story and life. Nunnelly, who has a background in the performing arts has experience working with the Stone’s Throw Dinner Theater and The Joplin Little Theater. That’s in addition to working in the McDonald County School District and at The Minnie Hackney Community Center in Joplin Nunnelly would be asked to presentations during Black History Month. She combined her great interest in Judge’s life and background in theater so that more people would be informed about Ona Judge and her life spent on the run from our countries first President, George Washington.