Scranton Reads Announces Book Selection & New Date


September 23, 2020

SCRANTON – Scranton Reads: One City, One Book, a joint venture of the City of Scranton and the Scranton Public Library is proud to announce its next book selection, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. Due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Scranton Reads will take place in February 2021 in celebration of Black History Month. Never Caught joins other great books such as Frankenstein, The War of the Worlds, Gilead, and The Handmaid’s Tale as recent selections by Scranton Reads.

A 2017 National Book Award finalist, Never Caught is a nonfiction work about one of the world’s most celebrated families, The Washingtons, and their pursuit of their runaway slave Ona Judge. When the Washingtons moved from Mount Vernon in Virginia to Philadelphia for George Washington to accept the role as the Nation’s first President, they brought with them nine enslaved people. The North was different for the entire household with several states, including Pennsylvania, creating laws requiring slaveholders to free their slaves after six months. Ona Judge, one of Martha Washington’s 153 slaves and chief attendant, would see free Blacks walking the streets of Philadelphia, igniting in her the powerful lure of liberty that would compel her to run away and live the rest of her life as a fugitive. Never Caught is Ona’s story of freedom and survival.

“Pennsylvania’s Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 was not enough to stop the First President of the United States from participating in the institution of slavery,” says Glynis Johns, leader of the Black Scranton Project and a Scranton Reads Committee Member. “The Washingtons went so far as to rotate their enslaved workers out of state to illegally circumnavigate the law and preserve their human property. Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s deep dive into the archive to unearth the incredible story of Ona Judge is one that is both astonishing and empowering.”

Events will be scheduled for the month of February 2021 including a kick-off event. Additional information about Scranton Reads and its month-long series of programs for all ages may be found on its website at, on the Scranton Public Library website at, or by phone at 348-3000.

“Dr. Dunbar manages the difficult feat of drawing from primary sources to create a work that is historically accurate yet readable. It illuminates issues that are still with us today. We look forward, come February, to engaging the community in Ona Judge’s story and the questions that it raises,” says Scott Thomas, CEO of the Scranton Public Library.

Scranton Reads is an annual event which seeks to encourage reading among people of all ages and to unite the community by means of discussions and activities featuring a specific book.

Scranton Reads partners include:

The City of Scranton

Black Scranton

Scranton Public Library


The University of Scranton

Lackawanna College

Marywood University

The Lackawanna County Historical Society

The Dearly Departed Players

Lackawanna County Library System

Scranton School District

Johnson College

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