March Book Club
March 19 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
The Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides (APT) has chosen as its book club selection for the March meeting Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo. It is one of The New York Times’ Best Books of 2023. The meeting is open to anyone, and participants should come ready to discuss the book.
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.
The book was suggested by APT member Christine Suhadolnik who also added these facts from her research about the book:
— Ellen’s mother was raped by her white slave owner and became pregnant with Ellen. As a result, Ellen was very light colored and gave the appearance of a white woman.
— Ellen’s husband, William, was Black and was not able to appear as the slave owner. That is why Ellen took the role as the slave owner and dressed like a man.
— They were able to escape with this plan and made it tot Boston and then moved to England after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed.
— In England in 1860, they wrote a book about their escape entitled, A Thousand Miles for Freedom.
— Their great granddaughter, Peggy Preacely, explained in an interview that the story of William and Ellen was passed down to her and that she participated in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s to continue the fight for Black freedom. She also writes poetry about her great grandparents’ escape to freedom.
Those who are not APT members and would like to attend should email APT Director-at-Large Pam Covey at to receive the Zoom link the day of the meeting. Members will find it in the weekly newsletter the week of the meeting. Please join us!