8 years ago my sister suggested I find a way to publish the amusing emails I sent her about our dog Zoe. Now there is blogging! Zoe tales are about Zoe (3 1/2 lb Chihuahua), Gracie (bigger and the world's friendliest Chihuahua) and other stuff I am thinking about. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom

It's a weird and wonderful thing when your family played an important role in the history of America. My great-great-great grandparents were William and Ellen Craft who made a daring escape from slavery by disguising Ellen as a white man and with William posing as her slave, they boarded a train and simply left. That's the extreme digest version. You can read their story in their memoir Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom.

A recent edition of their book features and introduction by Professor Barbara McCaskill, an associate professor of English at the University of Georgia. This academic year Professor McCaskill has been a Radcliffe Institute Fellow. Recently, the Radcliffe Institute hosted a presentation by Dr. McCaskill of her research on the Crafts. The presentation was held near Stanford so since Dr. McCaskill has been in correspondence with my sister and knew that there was a good-sized pocket of Craft descendents in the bay area, we were invited to be her guests at the presentation.

The idea of meeting someone who studies your family (in fact, that someone studies your family) is a little strange. Meeting Barbara, however, was a blast. Her energy and enthusiasm for my (our) history was charming. It was truly enjoyable meeting Barbara and she's been adopted into the family. It was also quite fascinating to hear the historical context and richness that she added to a story that, for us, is a family story that's been passed down for generations and is quite personal. Certainly we understand the historical importance but it was interesting to hear more detail about how the Craft's journey and subsequent activism intersected with and influenced the abolitionist movement, notions of women and blacks, and post-slavery communities among other things.

Also of note was the terrific hospitality of the Radcliffe Institute. The presentation was well organized and we had a wonderful time chatting with our hosts and several alumnae of Radcliffe at dinner afterwards.


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