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Never Caught

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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.

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.


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Now available as a young reader’s edition

In this incredible narrative, Erica Armstrong Dunbar reveals a fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons’ when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers.

A brilliant work of U.S. history. Recommended for all collections.
— Kristy Pasquariello, Westwood Public Library, MA School Library Journal, Starred Review

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Erica Armstrong Dunbar is the Blue and Gold Professor of Black Studies and History at the University of Delaware. In 2011, Professor Dunbar was appointed the first director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. She has been the recipient of Ford, Mellon, and SSRC fellowships and is an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. Her first book, A FRAGILE FREEDOM: AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN AND EMANCIPATION IN THE ANTEBELLUM CITY was published by Yale University Press in 2008.

A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, NEVER CAUGHT is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked it all to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom. It was honored as a 2017 National Book Award finalist. 

Represented by Laura Dail.