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In 1846, Cecelia, a 15-year-old slave girl traveled to Niagara Falls with her young Louisville mistress, Frances “Fanny” Thruston Ballard. During their stay, Cecelia made the bold decision to escape, to endure separation from her mother and brother, still enslaved in Kentucky, in order to begin life anew as a free woman in Canada. Yet the separation gnawed at her. So in the 1850s she opened a correspondence with Fanny, as a way of re-establishing connection with her mother. Fanny's return letters, preserved in Louisville archives for a century, allow a glimpse into the thoughts, feelings, and negotiations between these two women as the United States moved inexorably toward civil war over the issue of human slavery. The story of this 50-year relationship between a former slave and her former mistress brings to life the web of family connections forged by slavery and illustrates the ways that race, class, and gender structured women's lives in the nineteenth century.
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
978-0-8131-3415-4 (pdf version)
978-0-8131-4032-2 (epub version)
Slavery, Kentucky, Louisville, Fugitive slaves, Canada, African American women, Gender, Slaveholders
United States History
Asher, Brad, "Cecelia and Fanny: The Remarkable Friendship Between an Escaped Slave and Her Former Mistress" (2012). United States History. 181.
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