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Updated on July 24, 2011


Ellen and William Craft were husband and wife slaves, married in 1846, in Macon Georgia. Ellen was Mulatto and William was of dark complexion (their skin tone plays a great part in their escape and what station they work in as slaves.) Ellen worked as a housemaid for a white physician, while William work for a white cabinetmaker. They could share a few hours together after their work was completed.

In December 1848, William came up with an idea to escape the slavery of the south and to head north to be free, start a family, start a new life. He wrote, "It occurred to me that, as my wife was nearly white, I might get her to disguise herself as an invalid gentleman, and assume to be my master... and that in this manner we might effect our escape."

In the beginning Ellen did not think this idea would work due to her smooth facial skin, neither of them could read or write, and they had to travel over 1,000 miles across slave states.

As Christmas approached, some slaves were given a few days off, so this is when Ellen and William finalized their plan. Ellen would pose as a young, wealthy slaveholder named William Johnson, and that they would use public transportation. Due to the fact that Ellen could not write, she put her arm in a sling, knowing a signature would be needed for them to board the train, she would simply ask for assistance. She also covered her chin area with a handkerchief. With this done they headed to the Macon train depot.




At one point they believed they were caught when they seen a neighbor of Ellen's master. Then a slaveholder offered to by William from Mr. Johnson (Ellen.) Mr. Johnson (Ellen) was continuously warned that he shouldn't take his slave north to the free states. The two-hundred-mile trip to Savannah passed and they then boarded another boat, bound for Charleston, South Carolina. Out of fear of getting caught Ellen and William stayed in the cabin until all the passengers were gone.

Ellen and William made their way to a hotel to wait out their departure by yet another boat to Wilmington.On their arrival, on December the 23, they then boarded a train heading for Richmond, Virginia. Next they took a train to Fredericksburg, a boat to Washington D. C. and then another train to Baltimore, Maryland. By now they had the roles as master and slave perfected.

On Christmas Eve, while in Baltimore William said "we felt anxious, we knew not what that last dark night would bring forth." Conductors in Baltimore were more watchful of slaves.They did not want any slaves to pass this point of travel for fear they would escape into Pennsylvania.

When Ellen learned that they may get sent back she thought that they were doomed to be slave for the rest of their life.However the conductor of the previous train vouched for them and they were on their way to Philadelphia, to a boarding house recommended to them.

They moved further north to Boston with the help of abolitionists.They became well known but were being hunted by men who could legally capture and return them to their masters, this was know as the Fugitive Slave Act and it was passed in1850.

The Crafts eluded the slave hunters and moved to England.There they had five children and learned to read and write. After ten years they returned to Georgia and started an agriculture school for slaves.

Because of financial problems and the rise of the KKK the were forced to close the school and to move in with their daughter.


Although the Klan burned down Ellen and Williams plantation they were never discouraged Ellen rebuilt and had plans on opening a school for children.

William wrote of their escape in 1860 titled: Running a Thousand Miles to Freedom.

Ellen died in 1891 and William in 1900 in Charleston, South Carolina.



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    • roshall profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Ohio

      thanks for commenting and there are many more that were never mentioned in history.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      5 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Great story! I never heard of this couple before. Thanks for telling their story.

    • profile image

      lisa calloway 

      6 years ago

      love this hub.

    • roshall profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Ohio

      2Hi feenix sorry took so long to get to your comment. Glad to share my knowledge and thanks for commenting. Have a blessed day.

    • feenix profile image


      7 years ago

      Hello, roshall,

      Terrific hub. Absolutely terrific. Prior to reading this post, I was unaware of this story so thank you very much for educating me.

    • roshall profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for commenting epigramman. I feel history of all kind is vital to everyones future. Thanks for facebook post to and i will be reading more of your work soon. Have a great day!!

    • epigramman profile image


      7 years ago

      ...what a wonderful life affirming story of the human spirit and mankind's ingenuity and what he/she will do in order to survive and we have a writer here who is most suited to bring us this hub subject in such brilliant and moving detail. This is the kind of story which should be installed into every virtual classroom in the cyber universe but for a start I will post it to my Facebook page with a direct link back here so hopefully more people can become aware ......

      lake erie time 8:49pm thank you so much for your endorsement of my hubpage - that really means a lot especially coming from someone like you ...... Ontario, Canada

    • roshall profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for commenting. I feel that all show know about the history of African-Americans and what they are doing now, that's why i write "African-Americans Striving in Hollywood." There is more to come. Take care and thanks again.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, I am always fascinated by this kind of history, this is an amazing story, and what a great story! what courage to try this and succeed! thanks for sharing, cheers nell

    • roshall profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for commenting. Yes they did go through some really hard times.If everyone had that strength today this world would be in a better condition. May God bless you too. Thanks again stars439.

    • stars439 profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      This is great educational material. They went threw great hard times. God Bless You.

    • roshall profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Ohio

      They did get paid a little from their masters. She is one of my favorite too.I never heard of Ellen and William Craft while in school. Thanks for commenting and have a great day!!!!!

    • Paradise7 profile image


      7 years ago from Upstate New York

      What a story!! I wonder how they got the money for the train tickets, or knew what the train schedule was, without being able to read or write. I'm glad they made it. Let me tell you, there were some really gutsy people that escaped from slavery. My first hero of all time is Harriet Tubman.

    • roshall profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Ohio

      Your welcome and thank you for commenting. I hope you enjoyed it. Have a great day.

    • Lyn.Stewart profile image


      7 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Thank you for sharing this story

    • roshall profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you. I never heard of the Craft's so I knew I had to Put this story out in my words. There so mush history that we miss.I mainly wanted my grand kids to know this story. Again thanks for commenting and have a great day.

    • BobbiRant profile image


      7 years ago from New York

      Great hub! THIS is history too many Americans have forgotten. Freedom does not always come easily, in fact, it almost Never comes easily. Great writing.


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