Human Rights Society Announces First “Judge Ona Award” Recipients


UNIVERSITY Park, PA – The Human Rights Society (HRS), a joint student organization of Penn State Law at University Park and the School of International Affairs, has announced the first recipients of the Ona Judge Award for Human Rights.

The award recipients are selected by members of HRS for their efforts to champion the cause of human rights in their personal and professional lives and to represent communities that are often the target of human rights violations, including black people, Indigenous and other color (BIPOC); women; and LGBTQ + communities.

The award is named after the judge, born into slavery on George and Martha Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation. At the age of 10, Judge was trained to work as a personal assistant and companion to Martha Washington. When George Washington was elected president, Judge was taken to Philadelphia with the new president. Throughout the next decade, Judge worked as an assistant to the First Lady, allowing her some of her success in this position.

On May 21, 1796, as the Washingtons family in Philadelphia prepared to travel to Mount Vernon for the summer, Judge walked out of the house while the family dined. She was able to travel to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to seek refuge with the help of black and abolitionist communities, living the rest of her life in New Hampshire – free, but on the run. When it died in New Hampshire on February 25, 1848, at the age of 75, it was still legally owned by George Washington’s step-grandson.

“Ona Judge is a woman lost in history for far too long. While we all know the name of the couple who owned it, the world is finally starting to learn their names, ”said Jordan Rhone, third-year Juris Doctor program student at Penn State Law, treasurer of Human Rights. Society, and founder of the Ona Judge Award. “Almost 175 years after his death, we are proud to create the first award named in honor of the relentless – and free – Ona Judge.”

The first recipients of the Ona Judge Prize for Human Rights are:

  • JerriAnne Boggis, Executive Director of the Black Heritage Trail in New Hampshire, recognized for promoting and appreciating Black history and culture
  • Eléonore Brun, Professor of Law and International Affairs at Penn State Law / SIA, recognized for her activism and alliance for marginalized identities, both inside and outside academia
  • Dr Rachel Levine, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health, honored for advancing equitable health care during COVID-19 pandemic and for advocating for trans people
  • Christine penn, trans activist, recognized for defending and educating the trans community
  • Amol sinha, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey, honored for defending constitutional rights and advancing social justice

“We are extremely inspired by these recipients and grateful for their dedication to the fight for human rights and equality,” said Jenna Ebersbacher, third year Juris Doctor program student at Penn State Law and president of the Human Rights Society . “As members of the Human Rights Society, we expect them to show leadership in our own struggle. It is our hope that one day we will have a similar impact on society.

JerriAnne Boggis (left) and Christine Penn (right) pose with their Ona Judge Award certificates.

“Each of these five recipients has something in common with Ona: they are unsung heroes in their communities; intrepid pioneers in their quest for equality for all, ”said Rhône. Each recipient received a framed certificate and a personal thank you letter from the company. The public nomination form for the next round of recipients will open later this year.

About the Society for Human Rights

HRS provides a forum for students interested in discussing and learning more about various human rights issues affecting the world, with the opportunity to network organically with like-minded colleagues. Its mission is to defend human rights and raise awareness of current human rights issues, both national and international, and to support students at Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs interested in the issues. and / or human rights work. To promote its mission, HRS organizes panel discussions on different human rights topics, and lecture series featuring professors, practitioners and advocates to discuss their areas of human rights expertise. the man. For more information, contact Jordan C. Rhone at [email protected]


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