In 1848, William and Ellen Craft (1824-1900; c. 1826-c. 1891) escaped from slavery in Macon, Georgia. Ellen, who was born in Clinton, Georgia, could pass for white and disguised herself as a wealthy, physically ill enslaver traveling North for medical treatments; William accompanied her as his "master's" devoted, enslaved valet; both traveled openly by train, steamship, and carriage to arrive in free Philadelphia on Christmas Day.
The Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at UGA recently received a generous donation of historic documents from Jones County and Clinton, Georgia from the estate of William Lamar Cawthon, Jr. (1946-2016), a lawyer and author who researched and wrote extensively about antebellum Clinton. These collections join existing materials in the rare book and Georgiana collections documenting the lives and times of the Crafts in Georgia and England.
Under the direction of Dr. Barbara McCaskill, author of Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory (UGA Press, 2015) and professor of English at UGA, undergraduate students Lla Anderson (English, Philosophy) and Ayana Arrington (English, Political Science) and PhD candidates Luke Christie (Communications Studies) and Sidonia Serafini (English) have undertaken extensive research into the Hargrett Library collections.
During this event, Lla Anderson and Ayana Arrington will present their research through a series of interactive storymaps focused on Ellen Craft’s childhood. These stories feature key people, places, and events in mid nineteenth-century Clinton that contributed to the educational and cultural milieu that influenced Ellen and may have prepared her for eventual escape with William. They include free and enslaved Black persons, doctors and teachers, a notorious slave trader, stories of love and disguise, the “Big House” where Ellen spent her childhood, and the law offices where her slaveholding father bought, sold, mortgaged, and leased Black people like her.
Luke Christie and Sidonia Serafini will share their research of the Bowen family Bible, which includes a register listing the names of Black mothers and their children enslaved by the Bowen family. The Bowen Bible is an example of what museum professionals call Slave Bibles, which originated in colonial America. The Bowens aspired to be one of the “First Families” of Clinton who generally hailed from Revolutionary War-era Virginia. Luke and Sidonia will examine the racial and gendered meanings and functions of this Bible.
Registration is required for this free event. A Zoom webinar link will be emailed to you upon registration. Register here.