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87 ePiloGUe A Story to Pass Down Directly and indirectly, the fugitive slaves probably did more to bring about the abolition of slavery than any other one agency. The Northern people learned from the lips of these fugitives— from the strange, romantic, pathetic and tragic stories they told—that the slaves, no matter how ignorant or how different in colour or condition they might seem, were very much the same kind of human beings as themselves.They learned from the sufferings of these fugitives, from the desperate efforts which they made to escape, that no matter what might be said to the contrary the slaves wanted to be free. —Booker T. Washington, The Story of the Negro (1909) Within a few years following the Boston suit, the troubled Woodville School fell into bankruptcy. Yet to end William and Ellen Craft’s story with this disappointment and failure would be to ignore the legacy of community service, social improvement, and educational and political engagement that the Crafts bequeathed to their descendants. In 1883, for example, the Crafts’ only daughter, Ellen, also married a man named William: the Charleston native William Demosthenes Crum (1859–1912), who, like her mother, was the biracial progeny of a southern white slaveholder. Crum, who earned a medical degree from Howard University, became a Reconstruction Era leader in the Republican Party and, in a throwback to William Craft’s days on the West African coast, later was appointed minister to Liberia.1 The same year that this second-generation Ellen and William tied the knot, the Crafts’ son Charles presented his parents with a grandchild , Henry Kempton Craft (1883–1974). He earned an undergraduate science degree from Harvard, taught classes in electrical science at Tuskegee University, and later served as a national administrator 88 Epilogue for the yMca. He also followed in the socially committed example of his famous grandparents by serving in the Education Division of the New York State Commission against Discrimination.2 Ironically, Henry did not learn their story until his teens, because his mother, Emeline Aubin Kinloch Craft (1854–1944),“had wanted to forget that whole episode. . . . She was not a slave, she had not gone through this and thought it was not something to be proud of.”3 Henry Craft’s wife, Elizabeth Letitia “Bessie”Trotter (1883–1949), was the sister of the famous African American journalist and civil rights crusader William Monroe Trotter (1872–1934).This connection intertwines the Crafts’ family tree with that of Sally Hemings and President Thomas Jefferson, since Bessie descended from Sally’s enslaved sister Mary. Another Harvard graduate, Trotter was the first African American elected to the honor society Phi Beta Kappa.With its themes of equality, education, and citizenship, his weekly political newspaper The Guardian (1901–50) was a toast to the activist spirit of the Crafts. In addition to its subject matter, Trotter’s paper literally followed in the footsteps of William and Ellen and their antislavery friends, since its offices were housed where both the Liberator and Uncle Tom’s Cabin had been published.”4 Across the long transom of subsequent generations and more wars and social upheavals, what have the Crafts possibly left to the rest of us? In their escapes from slavery and from the nominally free North, their self-presentations in transatlantic antislavery publications, their reflections in their 1860 memoir about the ideologies and ironies of bondage and freedom, and their post–Civil War efforts to sustain the freedpeople by educating them and working to help them build their wealth and security, the Crafts can tell us something about how and why we still remember slavery. Their story certainly reiterates prominent themes that also resonate in other American fugitives ’ oral recollections, private correspondence, photographs, and published memoirs, such as the self-mastery and single-mindedness of Frederick Douglass; the relentless, savvy self-fashioning of Sojourner Truth (1797–1883); the collaborative spirit of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818–1907),who founded her own relief organization for the freedpeople; and the creative drive and cosmopolitan outlook of William Wells Brown, the Crafts’ longtime friend and mentor.5 A Story to Pass Down 89 In addition, like those of so many other enslaved Africans, the Crafts’ memory may have persisted in the popular imagination— onstage, for example, in Sherry Boone’s off-Broadway production of Ellen Craft: A New American Opera (2004), and in the performances of individual historical re-enactors—because their story is quintessentially an American one. What their saga that begins...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780820348322
Related ISBN
9780820338026
MARC Record
OCLC
910446876
Pages
136
Launched on MUSE
2015-05-30
Language
English
Open Access
No
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