Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction
A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful story about a daring woman of “extraordinary grit” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household he brought along nine slaves, including Ona Judge. As the President grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t abide: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.
Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, she was denied freedom. So, when the opportunity presented itself one clear and pleasant spring day in Philadelphia, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs. At just twenty-two-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property.
“A crisp and compulsively readable feat of research and storytelling” (USA TODAY), historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked everything to gain freedom from the famous founding father.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Ona Judge was born a slave at Mount Vernon; when George Washington was elected president, she was brought north as Martha’s personal slave. Even after abolition gained legal footing in the U.S., the Washingtons went to great lengths to keep their human property, mounting a dogged search for Ona after she fled to New Hampshire, where she was free—and a fugitive. Historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar uses primary sources like newspapers and the Washingtons’ diaries to present this page-turning true story. Her book challenges us to contemplate some of the unconscionable and unexamined realities of U.S. history.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Wow. Finally, slavery from the vantage point of the enslaved black woman. You have helped to free us all!