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Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington's Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away; Young Readers Edition

Review

Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington's Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away; Young Readers Edition

If you thought George Washington, our first president, was never a slave owner, think again. Washington, in fact, owned hundreds of slaves. Although he claimed to treat them humanely, like members of his own family, the truth is he still owned them and he whipped them when he thought it necessary.

"The authors do a good job of setting the stage with plenty of historical background provided. A lengthy Bibliography at the end of the book shows the level of research needed to write the story."

Ona Judge was one of the slaves in the Washington household in Mount Vernon. She was a personal assistant to Martha, George’s wife. As such, she was treated better than some of the other slaves and she was trusted more, but she was still a slave, she was not free. When Ona learned that she was to be given as a “gift” to George’s granddaughter as a wedding president, someone Ona didn’t like at all, Ona decided the time had come for her to seek her freedom. While she was supposed to be packing for her trip to her new home, Ona was actually planning her escape. Ona ran away from the Washington household and she never returned.

NEVER CAUGHT, THE STORY OF ONA JUDGE: George and Martha Washington's Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away is an interesting book. The authors do a good job of setting the stage with plenty of historical background provided. A lengthy Bibliography at the end of the book shows the level of research needed to write the story.

Although I enjoyed reading the book and I learned a lot from it, I think the title of the story is a bit misleading. Ona was never returned to the Washington household, but she was found. Joseph Whipple was sent to find Ona in Portsmouth, and find her he did. He lured her to his office where he confronted her. He told her George Washington wanted her back. Washington had asked Whipple to capture her and force her to return, but Whipple had a clash of conscience and decided not to do that. He gave Ona the opportunity to return to her “owners" without any punishment. But Ona didn’t do that. She left Whipple’s office and spent the rest of her days as a runaway slave, looking over her shoulder for someone to capture her and force her back to Mount Vernon. So, even though she remained a fugitive, in essence, she was “caught,” just never returned.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on March 20, 2019

Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington's Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away; Young Readers Edition
by Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Kathleen Van Cleve