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Never Caught

Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for Never Caught includes discussion questions for your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book

    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. Ona Judge was born during the era of the American Revolution and spent her childhood at Mount Vernon. Was Ona’s life typical of other enslaved children?

    2. What do we know about Ona Judge’s lineage? What does it tell us about race, slavery, and sex in the eighteenth century?

    3. How do George and Martha Washington become slaveholders? In what ways are they similar as slaveholders and how do they differ?

    4. In 1789, George Washington is elected president and moves to New York. Who accompanies him and how does New York differ from Virginia?

    5. How does Ona’s life change once she is taken to New York and Philadelphia? What kinds of responsibilities are placed upon her shoulders and how are they different from Ona’s work in Virginia?

    6. What do we know about slavery and freedom in Philadelphia? How does it differ from New York? What kind of effect does the free black community have on Ona’s life?

    7. How do George and Martha Washington manage their slaves while living in Philadelphia?

    8. What prompts Ona to escape from slavery? How does she do it?

    9. George and Martha Washington attempt to recapture their runaway slave. What was surprising about their efforts?

    10. What does Ona’s story tell us about the lives of fugitive slaves? How does her life change in New Hampshire? What are some of the new challenges that Ona faced?

    11. When you compare the lives of Ona Judge and Philadelphia Costin, what is most striking? What do their lives tell us about slavery and freedom in America?

About the Author

Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Photograph by Whitney Thomas

Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Erica Armstrong Dunbar is the Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History at Rutgers University. She also serves as Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Her first book, A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City was published by Yale University Press in 2008. She is also the author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge.

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