The Crafts, a married couple in Macon, Georgia, fled bondage in plain sight: she disguised as a white man, he as her slave. In a riveting excerpt from her new book, Master Slave Husband Wife, Ilyon Woo documents their flight:

As dawn began to break, the station filled with travelers bound for Savannah. Ensconced quietly in the only car where a Black man was supposed to sit, William carried the cottage key and a pass. And he, or perhaps Ellen, carried a pistol. On this morning, William had to hope that they would not need to use it. He himself had resolved to kill or be killed, rather than be captured.

Traffic at the station thinned as travelers crowded about the train, ready to board. They said their goodbyes. For enslaved riders, this may have been the last time they would see the faces of loved ones, if their loved ones even had permission to see them off.

With the engine fed and the water tank full, the conductor made his final calls. William dared to peek outside. Linked to him, he knew, if only by way of rickety clasps between the cars, was Ellen, who by this time should have been seated in first class. It would be difficult for William to see her before the train stopped. But briefly, William could glimpse the ticket booth, where Ellen, as his master, would have purchased two tickets.

Instead of his wife, he saw another familiar figure hurrying up to the ticket window. His heart dropped. The man interrogated the ticket seller, then pushed his way through the crowd on the platform, with purpose. It was William’s employer — not his legal enslaver, but another white man who “rented” William’s labor in a cabinet shop. This man, who had known William since childhood, scanned the throng as he approached the cars.

The cabinetmaker was coming for him.