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Publisher's Summary

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.

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 took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary, and eight slaves, including Ona Judge, about which little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn't get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south, just as the clock was about to expire.

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 firsthand in Philadelphia. So, when the opportunity presented itself one cold spring day in Philadelphia, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs.

At just 22 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.

Impeccably researched, historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked it all to gain freedom from the famous founding father.

©2017 Erica Armstrong Dunbar (P)2017 Simon & Schuster

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What listeners say about Never Caught

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Ona's later life

For the most part the book was well written. However, there were chapters which focused on people other than Ona, particularly the last chapter. While it's heartening to hear of William Costin's ability to free members of his family, it took away the momemtum of Ona's narrative. What happened to Ona after her narrow escape from Washington's relative? How did Mr. Stains die? What happened to her children? If that information isn't known, then that should have been expressed. The title of the book suggests it is about her exclusively.

12 people found this helpful

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Wonderful audiobook

This book kept my attention the entire time. The narrator did a great job. I've read a few books about George Washington and have always admired him. I still have great respect for the Washington family but this book gave me an entirely different perspective. Well done!

16 people found this helpful

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So happy to have been introduced to Ms. Judge!

Ms. Judge's story needed to be told and remembered in our country's history. For one, it's a great heroic tale of taking one's destiny in one's own hands. It also provides more insight into Washington's attitude towards slavery.

But let's face it, the amount of information that the author knew about Ms. Judge's situation could have been written in an (extensive) article rather than a book. The book relies too heavily on generalizations and imagined scenarios. Perhaps more research and specific knowledge of Judge's situation would have been appropriate.

13 people found this helpful

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Misleading title and speculation

This is an interesting story but I can’t say it could be considered historical as much of the content is speculation. More like a novel based on actual events. Also, the title including ‘relentless pursuit’ doesn’t seem accurate. Yes, the Washington’s attempted to reclaim their slave, but it didn’t seem relentless. More like a few written letters and attempting to pull political strings that didn’t pan out. They knew where she was the majority of the time. It sounds like they made a few attempts but didn’t pursue it much out of fear of political sentiment. Relentless sounds as if she were fleeing and hiding all her life and is a disservice to her story.

5 people found this helpful

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Good research, but a lot of filler.

Great story and good research. However, many same things said 5 different ways surrounded by filler.

10 people found this helpful

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Very informative!

This read like a mix between non fiction and fiction. It really shattered my beliefs about Washington. I naively held him on a pedestal and I am always glad when history sets my beliefs straight.

4 people found this helpful

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what a HISTORY!!!!!

such a wonderfully written biography of such an incredible woman. love love LOVED the narrator too, such a emotional voice.

3 people found this helpful

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Great Book

Very interesting book, just be aware that some of what she writes is not fact, but assumptions that she makes in order to make the story interesting.

2 people found this helpful

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Why the choice was freedom or death

I thought the power of this book was the narrative of a Black woman. As was noted in the book, far too often, these were the stories erased from history. The book was descriptive in documenting the horrors of slavery and why people who escaped were not ever quite free unless they moved beyond U.S. borders. I was expecting more in terms of an unrelenting pursuit, only because it sounded as if they were on Ona's trail until the day she died. In reality, it was the burden of escaped who needed to stay on the fringes something that had deep consequences on well-being in other ways. This book also made me curious about Portsmouth N.H.

2 people found this helpful

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Interesting, but drawn out…

I enjoyed the story, but it was somewhat repetitive and drawn out. I understand there is a lack of records regarding Enslaved people at the time, but I did not enjoy the speculation of how Ona was/may have been feeling and thinking throughout the book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Stephany
  • 05-05-19

New Perspective on the Washington’s

I found this an enjoyable story based on fact.

It is well paced with just enough contextual information to be useful.

An aspect of history I hadn’t previously given a lot of thought to and now feel much better informed.