Welcome to the world of MASTER SLAVE HUSBAND WIFE: The true story of William and Ellen Craft, a couple who escaped slavery through daring, determination and disguise, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled White man and William posing as “his” slave. 

View the trailer for MASTER SLAVE HUSBAND WIFE

MASTER SLAVE HUSBAND WIFE tells one of the most important stories of American Slavery and Freedom. With prose that is suspenseful, brilliantly detailed, historically precise, and simply gorgeous, Woo depicts the Crafts and their historic role in antebellum America stunningly. This is a story that will stay with you for a lifetime.”
—Imani Perry

Winner of the 2022 National Book Award for SOUTH TO AMERICA: A Journey below the Mason-Dixon to understand the soul of a nation

“A masterpiece!  I have not read anything as moving, imaginative and informative about my great-great-grandparents since I first heard our family story from my mother when I was a child in the 1940’s.  Ilyon Woo’s research and interpretation of their lives and of the eras in which they lived is extraordinary, bringing new light and meaning to all they endured and achieved.  When I finished the book, I felt uplifted and quite emotional, as if I had indeed shared not only their life-long freedom journey but had also borne personal witness to the tumultuous period in history through which they had not only lived, but had survived.”
—Peggy Trotter Dammond Preacely

Poet, activist, Freedom Rider, and great-great-granddaughter of Ellen and William Craft

“For those of us who already were familiar with Ellen and William Craft, we’re so grateful for this reconsideration of this courageous couple’s story. Ilyon Woo has accomplished a phenomenal feat, presenting previously unpublished archival excavations. Certainly, this is an essential addition to early African American studies–but more than research, Woo offers the Crafts’ travels with such grace, such tenderness. Here is a necessary rendering of Black love, Black resilience, and Black humanity during one of our nation’s most fraught times.”
—Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Winner of the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award for THE LOVE SONGS OF W.E.B. DUBOIS

“Marked by careful research and breathtaking prose, Master Slave Husband Wife complicates and compliments the incredible story of Ellen and William Craft. Woo reminds us that the pursuit of freedom is always worth the risk.”
Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Author of NEVER CAUGHT: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge f a nation

MASTER SLAVE HUSBAND WIFE, like all of the truly great American stories, spent over a century lying in wait, desperate to be told. Enter Ilyon Woo.  Ellen and William Craft loved each other, but also loved freedom, and knew one was impossible without the other.  And so they embarked on one of the most daring feats ever attempted in American history, a breathless story captured with breathless prose, and we readers gasp in amazement and wonder, at the tragedy and triumph.”
—Marlon James


“In this impressively researched and vividly written rendering of one of the most thrilling true stories of enslaved Americans overcoming daunting odds in their bid for freedom, Ms. Woo takes us on a physical and moral journey through an antebellum America that fostered slavery and put freedom-seekers at mortal risk. She has given us a propulsively fascinating read that is also an essential addition to the literature of antislavery history.”
—Fergus M. Bordewich


“Ilyon Woo’s skillfully crafted storytelling brings new insights to what it means to steal oneself from slavery.  Her harrowing tale of Ellen and William Crafts’ flight to freedom is a page turner that immerses the reader in the couple’s thoughtfully planned world of secrets, disguises, and misdirection and the culture of 19th century slave owners, their human property and the abolition movement. It is a beautifully written, thoroughly researched, and compelling story of courage, love, and yearning to be free.”
—Gretchen Sullivan Sorin

Author of DRIVING WHILE BLACK: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights

“In this beautifully written and deeply researched book, Ilyon Woo has brought to life one of the most remarkable instances of a fugitive slave escape. In narrating the fantastic story of William and Ellen Craft’s revolt against slavery, she has given us an entre into the exciting yet dangerous world of transatlantic abolitionism and its daring assault on slavery’s regime of terror.”
—Manisha Sinha