A Review of Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s Never Caught - Pacific Standard

A Review of Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s Never Caught

A portrait of George Washington as slave master.
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Never Caught: Ona Judge, the Washingtons, and the Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave. (Photo: Atria Books)

Ona Judge, the Washingtons, and the Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave
Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Atria Books

When George and Martha Washington moved from Virginia to Philadelphia so George could assume the presidency, they brought along Ona Judge, one of Martha’s favorite slaves. Every six months, they had Judge (along with other slaves) leave Pennsylvania to avoid triggering a law that would set her free. One day in 1796, Judge snuck out and boarded a ship to New Hampshire. The Washingtons tried repeatedly to get Judge back, insisting that she’d been brainwashed by a devious Frenchman. Erica Dunbar, an academic historian, often has to speculate as to what Judge was doing or thinking at any given time, but nonetheless sketches an evocative portrait of her daily life, both before and after her risky escape. For the reader, as for Judge, George Washington the Founding Father takes a back seat to George Washington the slave master.

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