New Book Explores Life of Ona Judge, Enslaved Woman Who Escaped George Washington in Philadelphia

A professor of black studies and history at University of Delaware has written the first full-length nonfiction account of the life of Ona Judge, a woman who lived as George and Martha Washington’s slave and who ran away from the president’s house in Philadelphia in 1796.

According to the New York Times, Erica Armstrong Dunbar drew on “some newly unearthed sources” to write Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge. The book tracks Judge “from Mount Vernon to New York City, Philadelphia and then New Hampshire, at a time when gradual abolition left the line between slavery and freedom ambiguous.” Judge evaded the Washingtons’ multiple attempts to recapture and died in New Hampshire some 50 years after making her escape.

Dunbar is giving a number of talks on her book this month, including the Homewood Museum in Baltimore, Md. on Feb. 16, and the Free Library of Philadelphia on Feb. 23.

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