Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting the historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar. More than twenty years ago, while researching 19th-century black women in Philadelphia, she discovered a fugitive advertisement for an enslaved woman who had run away from the President's house— as in George Washington.
Never Caught chronicles the incredible life of Ona Judge, who freed herself from the bondage of the most powerful family in the nation and thwarted capture for decades, despite their relentless pursuit of her. She outlived both Martha and George Washington, and in her seventies, she boldly agreed to be interviewed by an abolitionist newspaper reporter. Her story appeared in the Granite Freeman on May 22, 1845, just a week before Fredrick Douglass published his famous autobiography. It's taken over 170 years for us to hear Ona's story, but she was intent on owning it. Above Erica's signature in my copy of the book she scribbled: "Find strength in Ona's journey." I found that, and so much more. Congrats Erica on being a National Book Award Finalist.