In the winter of 1848, the Crafts made a plan to escape to Philadelphia. Ellen's fair skin allowed her to pose as a white man, while William pretended to be her slave. She cut her long hair and disguised herself with dark glasses and men's pants. Ellen wore a sling on her arm with the hope that it would help hide the fact that she could not read or write.
The Crafts were able to leave Macon with a special holiday pass from their owners, who had no idea that they did not plan to return. William and Ellen faced many challenges on their journey north. On the train, a white man who knew Ellen sat next to her, but he did not discover her true identity. Later Ellen was asked to sign a document that proved William was her slave – but because of her sling, another passenger signed the paper for her. They were almost held back by an officer before getting on the train from Baltimore to Philadelphia, but they managed to make it on board just before the train left.
Once in the north, the Crafts joined the anti-slavery movement and spread news of their escape. But slave catchers eventually found out and tried to capture them. They decided to flee to England rather than risk getting caught and sent back to Macon. In 1965, after the Civil War ended, William and Ellen returned to Georgia to help other former slaves.