George Washington Runaway Slave Movie in the Works

National Book Award Finalist 'Never Caught,' focuses on the first president's attempts to recapture Ona Judge, who escaped in 1796.
Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Never Caught has been caught.

The recently named National Book Award finalist Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge has been optioned by Lisa Ellis of Provenance Media and Richard Abate of 3 Arts Entertainment, who will serve as co-producers.

The book by historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar offers a look into a little-known chapter of George Washington’s life: His manhunt for Ona Judge, a 22-year-old slave who escaped in 1796. Judge was one of a handful of slaves Washington had with him in Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital, while he served as the nation’s first president from 1789-1797. After her escape, Washington used his political and personal contacts to try to recapture Judge, who eluded his grasp. 

Dunbar is a Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History at Rutgers University, where she specializes in African-American women’s history, and she is also the Director of the Program in African-American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Never Caught is one of the five finalists for the National Book Award, which will be awarded on Nov. 15.

Armstrong Dunbar is repped by UTA and Laura Dail at Laura Dail Literary Agency.