Ilyon Woo at Harvard Book Store
Master Slave Husband Wife:
An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom
in conversation with KELLIE CARTER JACKSON
January 23, 2023
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes ILYON WOO—acclaimed author of The Great Divorce—for a discussion of her new book Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom. She will be joined in conversation by KELLIE CARTER JACKSON, author of the award-winning book, Force & Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence.
A Return to In-Person Events
Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:
- Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.
About Master Slave Husband Wife
In 1848, a year of international democratic revolt, a young, enslaved couple, Ellen and William Craft, achieved one of the boldest feats of self-emancipation in American history. Posing as master and slave, while sustained by their love as husband and wife, they made their escape together across more than 1,000 miles, riding out in the open on steamboats, carriages, and trains that took them from bondage in Georgia to the free states of the North.
Along the way, they dodged slave traders, military officers, and even friends of their enslavers, who might have revealed their true identities. The tale of their adventure soon made them celebrities, and generated headlines around the country. Americans could not get enough of this charismatic young couple, who traveled another 1,000 miles criss-crossing New England, drawing thunderous applause as they spoke alongside some of the greatest abolitionist luminaries of the day—among them Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown.
But even then, they were not out of danger. With the passage of an infamous new Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, all Americans became accountable for returning refugees like the Crafts to slavery. Then yet another adventure began, as slave hunters came up from Georgia, forcing the Crafts to flee once again—this time from the United States, their lives and thousands more on the line and the stakes never higher.
With three epic journeys compressed into one monumental bid for freedom, Master Slave Husband Wife is an American love story—one that would challenge the nation’s core precepts of life, liberty, and justice for all—one that challenges us even now.
Praise for Master Slave Husband Wife
"Master Slave Husband Wife, like all of the truly great American stories, spent over a century lying in wait, desperate to be told. Enter Ilyon Woo. Ellen and WIlliam Craft loved each other, but also loved freedom, and knew one was impossible without the other. And so they embarked on one of the most daring feats ever attempted in American history, a breathless story captured with breathless prose, and we readers gasp in amazement and wonder at the tragedy and triumph." —Marlon James, winner of the 2015 Booker Prize
“Master Slave Husband Wife tells one of the most important stories of American slavery and freedom. With prose that is suspenseful, brilliantly detailed, historically precise, and simply gorgeous, Woo depicts the Crafts and their historic role in antebellum America stunningly. This is a story that will stay with you for a lifetime.” —Imani Perry, author of South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation
“For those of us who already were familiar with Ellen and William Craft, we’re so grateful for this reconsideration of this courageous couple’s story. Ilyon Woo has accomplished a phenomenal feat, presenting previously unpublished archival excavations. Certainly, this is an essential addition to early African American studies—but more than research, Woo offers the Crafts’ travels with such grace, such tenderness. Here is a necessary rendering of Black love, Black resilience, and Black humanity during one of our nation's most fraught times.” —Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, author of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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