Book Review: Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge




Title: *  Arthur:  Erica Armstrong Dunbar * Genre: Nonfiction *  Publisher:  Atria Books * Released: February 2017 * Pages: 253 * Rated:  4 Stars

My Thoughts

The book is titled,  Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. Dunbar attended the University of Pennsylvania where she received her BA in history and what was then called the study of Afro-American studies.

She would then later on receive her  MA and PHD from Columbia University.   Her writing,  teaching, lecturing  focus on the uncomfortable concepts of slavery,  racial injustice , and gender equality.

The first part of this book gives a brief history of Ona Judge family background.  Her mother Betty was owned by Martha Washington’s first husband (Daniel Parke Custis) . She was then bequeathed to Martha after Daniel died. Betty was a skilled seamstress and spinner, and her daughter would one day would inherit her talent.

Ona father (Andrew Judge).  He was an white indentured servant, who came to America from Britain.  In order to pay for his passage here he became an indentured servant. George Washington bought his contract and he went to work at  Mount Vernon.  There is not much on his relationship with Betty,  but once his contract was up he would abandon her and their children.

The rest of the story goes into Washington first years as President of the untied States.  Ona is separated from her family when Martha Washington decides to take her to New York with her ( which the first family resided for a period of time).  The story doesn’t pick up until the Washington’s  relocate to Philadelphia.  Its there that Ona escapes, and we learn the reason circumstances regarding.  The rest of the story just talks about how she evades being captured.

I really enjoyed this book,  I found it very informative.  I didn’t know that interracial relationships between Indentured servants and slaves were not as shocking  and even on some degree accepted.  George Washington remarked he had a preference to mulatto slaves.   Though these relationships didn’t change status of the slaves in them,  they were still slaves,  and any children born  to these unions were slaves themselves.

I also  like that we can see a clear  contrast between Ona Judge and other slaves,  compared to the Washington’s.  I think that we tend to forget this side of Washington’s and focus more on their public image.

So its shocking to the system when you hear that George Washington was the one to sign off on the fugitive slave act law. He was not above whipping his slaves,  or in a desperate attempt to get Ona back threatened to harm her family. Its things like this that challenge your perception on people.

The only criticism that I really had was that I felt that she did a lot of speculations, which is fine to a degree, but what was turning me off is that she was speculating on how people were feeling, and you have no proof that they are feeling that way,  but based on your own thoughts and research,  I just find that unreliable.

Otherwise,  the book was very well researched.  I thought it was organized very well,  and it was very detailed which I liked.  There are a lot of surprises that pop up throughout the book. I highly recommend this, if your interested African American history, slavery, and early America.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge”

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