London home for couples who escaped slavery in the US gets blue plaque | Black history month

The London home of slave abolitionists who fled to Britain from the United States after escaping slavery in Georgia is to be commemorated in a blue plaque.

Ellen and William Craft are famous for performing one of the most ingenious documented escapes in the history of American slavery.

In December 1848, Ellen, the child of a mixed race slave raped by her white owner, dressed as a disabled white man and left Georgia, where William posed as a slave slave accompanying his master north for medical treatment. .

They stopped first in Philadelphia, then Massachusetts, and were forced to flee the country altogether after Congress passed the Volatile Slave Bill in 1850 and forbade residents of “free states” to protect former slaves.

Fearing the abduction of the agents of their former slaves, Crafts then boarded a ship and made the voyage to England.

They settled in Hammersmith and helped organize the London Emancipation Society. In 1860, after traveling in Britain and arguing for freedom for black people and exciting abolition lecture halls with the story of their escape, they published their autobiography, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom.

A blue plaque commemorating the home of West London, where they started a family and fought for social justice, has been placed on 26 Cambridge Grove, a mid-Victorian house.

The Crafts' great-grandchildren standing outside the house.
The Crafts’ great-grandchildren outside the house in Hammersmith, west London. Photo: Justin Thomas / English Heritage

The record was suggested by Dr. Hannah-Rose Murray, a historian working on transatlantic abolition.

“Ellen and William Craft were brave and heroic freedom fighters whose daring escape from American chattel slavery involved Ellen crossing races, genders and class lines to act like a white southern man,” Murray said.

“I am so excited that English Heritage has built on the past work of historians, archivists and local activists to honor their presence in Hammersmith and the UK in general and recognize the Crafts’ incredible bravery and influence on the transatlantic community.”

English Heritage said only about 4% of the more than 975 blue plaques in London were dedicated to black and Asian people, but that it was working hard to rectify the lack of representation. Over the past two years, a quarter of English heritage sites have resembled black or Asian figures.

“Ellen and William Craft’s story is incredibly powerful,” said Anna Eavis, curator at English Heritage. “They are an important part of the movement against slavery, and we are happy to remember them with this plaque.”

After the American Civil War and the legal liberation of black people across the country, Crafts returned and arrived in Boston in 1869 with three children. In 1873, they established the Woodville Cooperative Farm School in Bryan County, Georgia, for children of freed slaves.

Ellen is believed to have died in Georgia in 1891. William died in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1900 and was buried in the city.

This article was edited on 5 October 2021. In an earlier version, the trip to London incorrectly described four days.

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