Washington Black

Washington Black

A Novel

Book - 2018
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born. When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or "Titch," is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist. He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Titch abandons everything to save him. What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life.
Publisher: New York, New York : Patrick Crean Editions, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishersLtd, ©2018.
ISBN: 9781443423397
Characteristics: 419 pages ;,24 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Mar 15, 2019

NYT 10 Best 2018

Mar 13, 2019

A wonderful novel. My first by this author, but it reminded me of Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes.

Mar 04, 2019


ArapahoeAnnaL Feb 19, 2019

One of the New York Times' 10 best of 2018, this stunning historical novel is fabulous from the point of view of the writing (gorgeously descriptive), the characters (poignant), and plot (journey of a boy from brutal slavery to freedom, love, intellectual adventure).

Feb 06, 2019

This title begs for a sequel. What happened to the little guy who expected nothing but ended up living and learning big?
Anymore family legacy attached ?

Jan 24, 2019

why enslavement, why freedom, why abandonment, why love - why me?
one of the best novels about enslavement that I have read
I also recommend The Polished Hoe by Austin Clark
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Jan 23, 2019

Jan 2019: Same author as the Second Life of Samual Tyne, which I couldn't finish because of the foreboding and evil atmosphere created by the author.
Washington Black, a young slave w/no family is brutalized and then, taken into the slave master's brother's home as "ballast" for his flying machine. In the course of preparing to fly, W learns about sea life and hones drawing skills. A series of adventures, in the Arctic, Nova Scotia and, finally London, leaves him in a somewhat-supportive environment, w a quirky partner (who he can't marry because she's white), fleeing from a vicious bounty hunter and working to build a dream, a oceanarium. And, searching for the brother, who abandons him in the Arctic.
Compelling writing; the hero's uncertainty, despair and rootlessness never leaves him while he continues to plow thru his life.

Jan 16, 2019

I’m usually interested in picking up novels by contemporary Canadian authors, so after all the noise that ensued the release of Esi Edugyan’s last book I was intrigued.
The first part started really well and I enjoyed reading about Wash (short for Washington Black) and the chance he was given to escape his miserable existence as a slave boy and develop his great talents.
However, the more the story progressed, the more illogical and implausible the plot development turned out to be. A lot of incredible events happened simply because the plot needed them to happen and the un(timely) demise or survival of some of the characters didn’t help to make the storyline more believable. At some point I had the feeling I was reading ‘the fantastical adventures of Washington Black’ – something I definitely didn’t expect when I picked the book. I started to lose interest in the whole thing since the author, for me, wasn’t sure where all this was going, or what her main character really wanted and what drove and motivated him.
To finish on a positive note, I liked Edugyan’s writing quite a lot and might give one of her other books a try at some point.

Jan 14, 2019

A gripping story of a young slave boy born on a Barbados sugar plantation. George Washington Black was "mothered" by a woman named Big Kit, but treated him poorly yet seemed to love him. By strange circumstance, he is taken under wing by Christopher Wilde, called Titch, the younger brother of the plantation owner. Titch is obsessed with science and a form of hot air balloon. When Wash, as he is called sees the suicide of a friend of the Wilde's, Titch decides he and Wash need to leave. From here the adventures begin taking them to American, on to the Arctic, then Nova Scotia, and finally to England.

The story is a bit of a stretch in places, yet totally believable which is due to the skill of the writer. Told from Wash's point of view, the reader begins to understand the hopeless situation that he was in as well as others in slavery, indeed the entire Black race.

It is in the Arctic that Titch seemingly leaves Wash stranded with Titch's dying father and a strange mute named Peter House. Wash cannot understand and is heartbroken at the loss of Titch and spends almost the rest of his life searching for him while he himself is running from a slave hunter and his own past.

This is a well written, interesting, and engaging novel. I had to reread the ending and still am not quite sure, but still a very enjoyable book.

Jan 05, 2019

Obama's List

View All Comments


Add a Summary
Sep 12, 2018

Born into slavery on Faith Plantation in Bardbados, George Washington Black has never known any other life. When his master dies, the slaves expect the estate to be broken up and sold off, but instead two brother arrive, nephews of the old owner. Erasmus Wilde proves to be a cruel man who drives his slaves harder than the old owner ever did. But his brother, Christopher “Titch” Wilde, is a man of science, and while the other slaves on Faith are doomed to a harder lot, Wash is selected to help Titch with his experiments, and his seemingly impossible dream to launch an airship called the Cloud Cutter. However, being selected as Titch’s assistant will come at a price Wash could never have expected, and their strange, uneven relationship will change the course of Wash’s life forever, for better and for worse.


Add a Quote
Sep 12, 2018

I carried that nail like a shard of darkness in my fist. I carried it like a secret, like a crack through which some impossible future might be glimpsed. I carried it like a key.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top