The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

Cecelia Larrison: A Story of Self-Liberation from Slavery

Cecelia Larrison is one of many people who liberated themselves from slavery long before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1846, at age 15, while on a trip to Niagara Falls with her enslavers, the Thruston family of Louisville, Kentucky, Cecelia slipped away and crossed the border into Canada. 

Throughout her years as a free woman, Cecelia faced many joys and hardships. The details of her life, like those of many formerly enslaved people, could have been lost to history. But fortunately, we have significant documentation of Cecelia’s movements and struggles, much of it coming from an unlikely source: a woman who was once her enslaver, her childhood playmate, and perhaps even her friend.  

After her liberation, Cecelia started a nearly decade-long correspondence with her former "mistress," Frances "Fanny" Thruston. This online exhibit uses some of these letters to tell the story of Cecelia’s life after slavery. 


To learn more about Cecelia and Fanny and how their lives were entwined, read Cecelia and Fanny: The Remarkable Friendship Between an Escaped Slave and Her former Mistress by Brad Asher.