Never Caught: Ona Judge

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"Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge" by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. ISBN 9781501126413. Copyright 2017. Softcover with 263 pages including notes, bibliography, and index.

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. 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, after a brief stay in New York. In setting up his household he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary, and nine slaves, including Ona Judge.

Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, the few pleasantries she was afforded were nothing compared to freedom, a glimpse of which she encountered first-hand in Philadelphia. When she learned that Martha Washington planned to give her as a wedding present to Elizabeth Parke Custis, reinforcing her feeling of being a piece of property, Ona Judge was particularly motivated to escape. One clear and pleasant spring day in Philadelphia, Judge left everything she knew for a life in New England. Ona, at the age of 21, became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property but she was never recaptured and remained free until her death.

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