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About the Book

This is a picture of the cover of the book Washington Black. It is green and yellow with a flying boat in the air. Two individuals are in the boat.George Washington Black, or "Wash," an eleven-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is terrified to be chosen by his master's brother as his manservant. To his surprise, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning--and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Christopher and Wash must abandon everything.

What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic. What brings Christopher and Wash together will tear them apart, propelling Wash even further across the globe in search of his true self. From the blistering cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, from the earliest aquariums of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black tells a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again, and asks the question, What is true freedom?


Inspiration for Washington Black

The story of Washington Black was inspired by the famous Britain case of the Tichborne Claimant. Roger Tichbourne, a British aristocrat from a wealthy family, was shipwrecked and presumed dead. Once his mother received word that a man in Australia claimed to be the lost Tichbourne son, she sent Andrew Bogle, a former slave of the Tichborne plantation, to retrieve the man. 

Andrew Bogle’s life with the Tichbornes serves as the point of inspiration for Washington Black, and Esi Edugyan created a narrative of Bogle’s life through the character, George Washington Black, by capturing the complexity of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized as well as depicting the tumultuous transition of becoming your own person.

Last Updated 9/3/20