Never Caught

Never Caught

The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

Book - 2017 | First 37 InkAtria books hardcover edition
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"A revelatory account of the actions taken by the first president to retain his slaves in spite of Northern laws. Profiles one of the slaves, Ona Judge, describing the intense manhunt that ensued when she ran away."--NoveList.
"When George and Martha Washington moved from their beloved Mount Vernon in Virginia to Philadelphia, then the seat of the nation's capital, they took nine enslaved people with them. They would serve as cooks and horsemen, as house servants and personal attendants. The North was different for the entire household, free and enslaved, white and black. There was a new climate to adjust to, and new mores as well. Slavery, in Philadelphia at least, was looked down upon. Indeed, there was even a law requiring slaveholders to free their slaves after six months. Yet George Washington thought he could outwit and circumvent the law by sending his slaves south every six months, thereby resetting the clock. Among the slaves to figure out this subterfuge was Ona Judge, Martha Washington's chief attendant. Having interacted with Philadelphia's sizable free black community, Ona Judge observed and soon longed for liberation. And, risking everything she knew, leaving behind everyone she loved and had known her entire life, she fled. Here, then, is the story not only of the powerful lure of freedom but also of George Washington's determination to recapture his property by whatever means necessary. Never Caught is the only book that examines the life of an eighteenth-century fugitive woman in intricate detail, and it provides a new look at George Washington's relationship to slavery. An important new work on one of the world's most celebrated families, Never Caught is a must-read for anyone interested in American history."--Jacket.
Publisher: New York : 37 Ink/Atria, [2017]
Edition: First 37 InkAtria books hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781501126390
Call Number: BIO 306.362 JUDGE 2017
Characteristics: xvii, 253 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

When George and Martha Washington moved from their beloved Mount Vernon in Virginia to Philadelphia, then the seat of the nation's capital, they took nine enslaved people with them. Slavery, in Philadelphia at least, was looked down upon. Indeed, there was even a law requiring slaveholders to fr... Read More »

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Nov 24, 2020

A very good book that tells the fascinating story of an amazing woman. There were many aspects of the book that I enjoyed, but one thing that drove me a bit crazy was the author's tendency to offer fictionalized comments. It made me feel like she was padding the word count. The primary documents can only take one so far when there are so few of them, so it feels like the author added a lot of comments about how Ona Judge must have felt during this or that situation, or flat out stating something that Judge did that we have no documentation for, just to make the book a little longer.

Overall, the book was excellent when the author stuck to the records, but made it fall short when she felt the need to fictionalize things. I would definitely recommend this to the more casual reader who is interested in the subject of the Founding Fathers' and their relationship or connections to slavery.

Jun 29, 2019

I have to give Dunbar a lot credit for recreating this story w/ scant recorded evidence. Three cheers for Ona Judge! I think that telling of these stories of enslaved people helps to educate us all of the horrors of slavery. I felt this book was at times redundant. Overall the story was imaginative and gave factual evidence whenever possible. it leaves you wanting to know more details :)

Jul 13, 2018

This hidden history deserved better and was undoubtedly well researched. But where were the editors?? Some episodes began with the summary and ended with the details. Also, The word "breach" was spelled "breech" at least twice. I'm writing this because I'm getting increasingly tired of spelling errors and careless editing.

Sep 02, 2017

This book was a page turner; strongly recommended. Was led to it by "Ties that Bound: Founding First Ladies' Slaves," by Marie Jenkins Schwartz, another 2017 book that referred, briefly, to Ona Judge, her escape, and the Washingtons' efforts to retrieve her. Ona didn't belong to George, but was Martha's "dower slave." She was part of the estate of Martha's first husband, and would, at Martha's death, belong to his heirs. If they couldn't retrieve her, they would have to repay her value to that estate. And the Washingtons were broke. He was at the end of his second term, planning to retire. He did not want a scandal as he left the Presidency. Ona had been living with the Washingtons in Philly, the nation's capital at the time, where there were many more free blacks than slaves. She'd seen what freedom looked like and probably knew how to get help. Martha told Ona she was giving her to one of her granddaughters as a wedding present. Ona knew this granddaughter, who was a much more difficult person to work for than Martha. Her new husband had a bad reputation, whereas George had left Ona alone sexually. Ona had plenty of reasons to run, in spite of the danger. I got the impression that after Washington got back to Mt. Vernon, tired and ill, he let it go. It was mostly Martha's fight, and she died not long after he did. The two interviews Ona gave to Abolitionist newspapers shortly before she died led Dunbar to other info on Judge.

Aug 01, 2017

A good book, should be more widely read. The author sticks pretty close to known, provable facts, but there were times I wish she would have gone more into historical fiction, to fill in gaps and make the book a little less dry. Also, there's a lot made of how the Washington's pursued her for years and I was looking for what all they did to track her down and there really wasn't much there. Yes, they made efforts for a time and she missed being returned because of her own gut feeling, but the Washington's gave up after a while. The author makes readers feel for her, how she ended up leading a lonely, hard life, but she was free.

ArapahoeStaff20 Jul 08, 2017

Ona Judge weighed the price of freedom against the weight of bondage. There is no picture-perfect ending here, but the fight for her freedom left Judge with her head held high.

ArapahoeLesley Apr 11, 2017

A fascinating story and a disconcerting look into what we too often gloss over when we look back at early american history and the 'founding fathers'. Unfortunately the lack of much surviving evidence leads to a lot of conjecture which was much of the time logical and well stated but became overwhelmingly prevalent and somewhat distracting. The most fascinating aspect was the individual states history as concerns abolition.


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May 20, 2019

This book was very informative and interesting. It kept me captive from the first page.


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