Cover of Cecelia and Fanny


The fascinating true story behind a 50-year correspondence between an escaped slave and her former mistress.

A beguiling and well-written story.

The Louisville Courier-Journal

Asher serves his history suitably straight, relevant, and readable.

Fascinating... [A] riveting book.

The Saturday Evening Post

Cecelia was a fifteen-year-old slave when she accompanied her mistress, Frances “Fanny” Thruston Ballard, on a trip to Niagara Falls in 1846. Minutes from Canada, Cecelia faced a fateful decision. Flee in a rowboat across the Niagara River to freedom? Or return with her mistress to Kentucky, to the only life she had ever known, where her mother and brother remained enslaved? Cecelia made the bold decision to escape, to endure separation from her family 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. Fanny’s return letters, preserved in Louisville archives for a century, document the extraordinary link between two urban families over several decades. Cecelia and Fanny is a fascinating look at race relations in mid-nineteenth-century Louisville, Kentucky, focusing on the experiences of these two women during the seismic social upheaval wrought by the emancipation of four million African Americans.

Other works by Brad

On the Road Histories Kentucky Beyond the Reservation