Embark on one of the boldest feats of self-emancipation in American history, the journey to freedom of Ellen and William Craft, told by author Ilyon Woo in her latest book, Master Slave Husband Wife, at Belmont Books on Wednesday, May 17 at 7pm. Ilyon Woo will be in conversation with Christian Walkes, Associate Director of Education and Interpretation Museum of African American History — Boston | Nantucket. A Q&A session will follow the conversation.
2023 is the 175th anniversary of the Crafts’ escape from slavery in Georgia in December 1848: one month later, they would arrive in Boston. Sustained by their love as husband and wife, the Crafts posed as master and slave, with Ellen Craft—the daughter of her first enslaver—passing as wealthy, disabled white man traveling with his enslaved valet. Long past the 1,000 miles they originally traveled to the North, the Crafts were required to flee several thousands miles more to England, in order to truly be free.
Ilyon Woo brings the Crafts to life in her vivid narration of their adventures, with meticulous research and stunningly gorgeous writing. Basing her story upon the Crafts’ published narrative of their escape from Georgia, she turned to other sources—letters, deeds, travelogues, newspapers, diaries, paintings, and more—to tell parts of the story the Crafts never wrote about, including their crisis in Boston and their celebrity as abolitionist speakers, both in America and abroad.
"A masterpiece! I have not read anything as moving, imaginative and informative about my great-great-grandparents since I first heard our family story from my mother when I was a child in the 1940's. When I finished the book, I felt uplifted and quite emotional, as if I had indeed shared not only their life-long freedom journey but had also borne personal witness to the tumultuous period in history through which they had not only lived, but had survived.”
– Peggy Trotter Dammond Preacely, poet, activist, Freedom Rider,
and great-great-granddaughter of Ellen and William Craft
Ilyon Woo is the New York Times best-selling author of Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom and The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times. Her writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, and Time Magazine, and she has received support for her research from the Whiting Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Antiquarian Society, among other institutions. She holds a BA in the Humanities from Yale College and a PhD in English from Columbia University.
This talk is presented by Belmont Books, The Museum of African American History and GBH Forum Network.
New York Times Bestseller
The remarkable true story of Ellen and William Craft, who escaped slavery through daring, determination, and disguise, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled White man and William posing as “his” slave.
In 1848, a year of international democratic revolt, a young, enslaved couple, Ellen and William Craft, achieved one of