Master Slave Husband Wife

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Winner of the 2024 Pulitzer Prize in Biography

“A rich narrative of the Crafts, an enslaved couple who escaped from Georgia in 1848, with light-skinned Ellen disguised as a disabled white gentleman and William as her manservant, exploiting assumptions about race, class, and disability to hide in public on their journey to the North, where they became famous abolitionists while evading bounty hunters.” —The Pulitzer Prizes

Named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time, NPR, Smithsonian Magazine, and Oprah Daily

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.

    Master Slave Husband Wife

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