Flight to Freedom: An evening with Pulitzer prize-winning author Ilyon Woo and Professor John Stauffer

Primary Source’s Annual Benefit Opening Minds. Inspiring Change.
Thursday, April 4th, 2024 | 6 – 9 p.m. | The Allen Center, Newton, MA

We extend our gratitude to all of the guests and supporters who joined us for Flight to Freedom! 

Every year Primary Source reaches thousands of children through our work with teachers to provide students with accurate, inclusive history education based on primary sources. 

In 2024 Primary Source is celebrating 35 years of leadership in education!

Primary Source held it’s 2024 annual benefit at The Allen Center, in Newton, MA. This newly restored 19th century building is steeped in the history of racial equality; the Allen family actively supported the abolitionist movement and played a role in the Underground Railroad. Adrienne Hartzell Knudsen, Managing Director, The Allen Center, provided an inspiring history of The Allen Center, and detailed its restoration to become a community resource for diverse programs in the humanities and the arts. 

It was our privilege to a host a stirring conversation with best-selling author Ilyon Woo, Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom and esteemed historian Professor John Stauffer, Sumner R. and Marshall S. Kates Professor of English and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. They discussed her book about the lives and times of Ellen and William Craft, who fled slavery in Georgia for a life of activism around abolition in the north of the United States and in England. 

Their conversation underscored the profound significance of utilizing primary sources in K-12 history education, showcasing Ilyon Woo’s meticulous research methodology and reliance on primary sources, and offering a compelling narrative rooted in authenticity and accuracy. Through her detailed exploration of Ellen and William Craft’s journey, we understood the invaluable cultural and historical insights in the book that are essential for acknowledging the complexities of slavery, freedom struggles, and the relentless pursuit of equality.

We also honored Rosemary Pisano who has been president of the Primary Source Board since 2011 and a supporter of Primary Source for over two decades. She is stepping down from her position as board president later this year (although she will continue to serve on the board), so we expressed our gratitude by creating a Celebrate Rosemary Fund for those wishing to donate to Primary Source in her honor. We also presented Rosemary with a commemorative book that includes photos and messages from the Primary Source community. 

By partnering with teachers, Primary Source empowers students to be empathetic and engaged global citizens.  

Highlighting traditionally overlooked voices is a key dimension of Primary Source’s work. The 2024 benefit offered the audience a taste of African American history through the story of Ellen and William Craft’s escape from slavery, as well as our soon to be launched curriculum revision project Making Freedom

Led by Dr. Elaine McNeil Girmai, Special Projects Leader: African American Programs, this significant project will provide teachers and their students with a digital curriculum encompassing 420 years of African American history. It will demonstrate the social agency and intellectual achievement shown throughout African American history and the inextricable relationship of African Americans to the collective history and cultural development of the United States.

Thank you to everyone who made Primary Source’s annual benefit a success!
Thank you to Annielly Camargo Photography for the photos and to Anne Bost for filming the event.

To watch the program, click here.

Benefit event sponsors