LONDON – A Black couple who escaped slavery in the U.S. state of Georgia and fled to Britain to campaign for abolition have been honored with a historic plaque on their home in London.
English Heritage on Tuesday marked the accomplishments of Ellen and William Craft with a blue plaque outside the two-story brick row house in the Hammersmith area of West London from which they campaigned for the end of slavery.
The couple escaped slavery in 1848 when Ellen, the light-skinned daughter of a Black woman raped by her enslaver, disguised herself as a disabled white man traveling north for medical treatment. William accompanied her, posing as her servant.
After their former enslavers sent bounty hunters to capture the Crafts, the couple left their home in Boston and fled to Britain. Once overseas, the couple lectured widely and helped set up the London Emancipation Society, which campaigned for the abolition of slavery.
“Ellen and William Craft were courageous and heroic freedom fighters whose daring escape from U.S. chattel slavery involved Ellen crossing racial, gender and class lines to perform as a white southern man,’’ Hannah-Rose Murray, the University of Edinburgh historian who proposed the plaque, said in a statement. “Their story inspired audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, and when the Crafts reached Britain they were relentless in their campaigns against slavery, racism, white supremacy, and the Confederate cause.’’
After the Civil War that ended slavery in the U.S., the Crafts returned home in 1869. They later established a farm school in Bryan County, Georgia, to teach and employ newly freed slaves.
English Heritage and its predecessors have installed more than 975 blue plaques throughout London to honor the accomplishments of notable people who lived in the capital at some point in their lives.
Mary Seacole, the Jamaica-born nurse who cared for British soldiers during the Crimean War, and Jimi Hendrix, the American rock music icon, are among the Black artists, statesmen and scientists honored by the program.
However, only 4% of the more than plaques honor Black and Asian people. English Heritage said it is striving to make sure the program is more representative of the city’s population.