Tag Archives | William Craft

‘Mislike Me Not for My Complexion’

In spring 2010, Julia Ellen Craft Davis and Vicki Lorraine Davis generously donated the Craft and Crum Family Papers to the Avery Research Center. Archivists and historians alike are delighted with the major highlight of the collection: a tribute book to William and Ellen Craft, enslaved people from Macon, Georgia who completed a daring escape and became internationally known celebrities.

'Mislike Me Not for My Complexion,' quoted by Ira Aldridge

Ira Aldridge quotes the Prince of Morocco from William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

Opening the slim volume for the first time, Avery staff members gasped at the handwriting of thespian Ira Aldridge, an African American from New York who graced the London stage in the 19th century. Though celebrated in England and the European continent, Aldridge also faced enormous prejudice due to his race. Invoking the sentiments of the Prince of Morocco in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Aldridge quoted, “Mislike me not for my complexion, / The shadow’d livery of the burnish’d sun.” With these words, Aldridge welcomed American refugees William and Ellen Craft to England and issued a shared plea for equality.

Created upon the Crafts’ entrée into English abolitionist circles, this tribute book contains passages and quotations written by well-known supporters, including the American author Harriet Beecher Stowe as well as Ira Aldridge and his wife, the Swedish countess Amanda Aldridge. A cartes-de-visite album of these figures, the Crafts, and other abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison provides a rich visual counterpart to the volume and hints at the international importance of these materials.

Harriet Beecher Stowe writes to the Crafts.

Harriet Beecher Stowe quotes two biblical passages as she writes to the Crafts.

But just who were the Crafts and how did they emerge as public figures in the transatlantic abolitionist movement?
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Craft and Crum Family Papers Link Charleston and England

Today’s post was authored by a Guest Contributor,  independent historian Jeffrey Green of England.

When I returned to Charleston in June 2010 to attend the Charleston Jazz Initiative’s weekend, I visited the Avery Research Center to investigate a postcard of Buckingham Palace. Mailed in 1914, the postcard was addressed to the son of English-born Ellen Craft Crum of Charleston.

Edmund Jenkins to Aubine Craft

Postcard from Edmund Jenkins to Aubine Craft

Prior to my South Carolina excursion, an Avery archivist had contacted me as the card seemed to be from Edmund Jenkins, whose biography I wrote in 1982.  I drove twenty miles to Ockham Park, where Ellen Craft Crum’s fugitive slave parents had lived in the 1850s, in order to visit All Saints Church and examine its baptism register.   The link between Charleston and England continued, as I discovered images of that very church in Avery’s recent acquisition, the Craft and Crum Family Papers.

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