Ellen and William Craft: A Love Story

Ellen and William Craft: A Love Story

TICKET UPDATE: As of 11am on 4/29, there are eight (8) tickets remaining. Once tickets are sold out, we are not maintaining a waitlist. Those interested in still obtaining tickets may call back on Tuesday, April 30 to see if any cancellations have been processed (not guaranteed).

On Tuesday, April 30, LancasterHistory is thrilled to welcome New York Times bestselling author Dr. Ilyon Woo for a talk and book signing for her latest book, Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom, at the Ware Center for the Performing Arts. Described as three epic journeys compressed into one monumental bid for freedom, Master Slave Husband Wife is a historical American love story—one that would challenge the nation’s core precepts of life, liberty, and justice for all—that challenges us even now.

A graphic with two images. The image on the left is the front cover of the book "Master Slave Husband Wife" by Illyon Woo. The image on the right is of Illyon Woo, a woman with light skin and long dark hair. She rests her arm on the back of a chair and looks off to the left of the photo.
The front cover of “Master Slave Husband Wife” (left) and author Ilyon Woo (right). Photo by Michael Wilson.

Named as a best book of 2023 by The New Yorker, Time, NPR, Smithsonian Magazine, and Oprah Daily, Master Slave Husband Wife tells 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. 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 and 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 the infamous Fugitive Slave Act of 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–with their lives and thousands more on the line and the stakes never higher.

Dr. Ilyon Woo is the New York Times bestselling 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 GlobeThe Wall Street Journal, Time, and The New York Times. She has received support for her research from the Whiting Foundation, the 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 Ph.D. in English from Columbia University.


This event will take place in person at the Ware Center, 42 N. Prince Street in Lancaster, on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. Doors open at 5pm, followed by the lecture at 5:30pm in Steinman Hall. Post-lecture (~6:30pm), Ilyon Woo will be available for a book signing of her book, Master Slave Husband Wife. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.


This event is free and open to the public but requires advance registration and tickets to attend. To attend this program, please register online or by calling (717) 392-4633. Individuals may only purchase a maximum of four (4) tickets per transaction. If you do not receive a confirmation email for registering, please check your junk/spam folders before contacting support@lancasterhistory.org. Advance registration is strongly encouraged. We are not accepting a waitlist.

Please note that this is an in-person event only. LancasterHistory will not be recording or livestreaming this lecture.

This event is made possible through a partnership with Millersville University’s History Department and by generous supporters, Anne D. Gardner and the Musser-Lyons Endowment for Equity and Education at LancasterHistory.

Please Note: In the Winter/Spring 2024 Programs & Exhibitions guidebook, this event is titled “Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom.” After the printing of the guidebook, this event title was altered but it is the same event.

Membership Makes History Happen! Your membership enables us to bring dynamic speakers to LancasterHistory and gives you other exciting benefits! Learn more about becoming a member of LancasterHistory or renewing your membership today.

Book Signing In-Person Event Lecture

April 30, 2024 The Ware Center, 42 N. Prince Str., Lancaster, PA 5pm Doors Open | 5:30pm Talk FREE | Tickets Required