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In the News: William and Ellen Craft
William and Ellen Craft made the news in Junior Scholastic on December 5, 2005
By Alexandra Cale

William and Ellen Craft
Ellen Craft, fugitive slave born 1827
(Photo: The Granger Collection, New York)
William and Ellen Craft lived as slaves in Macon, Georgia, in the 1840s. Ellen was the daughter of a white man and his black slave. Her mixed blood gave her light skin, but she was separated from her family and sold just like any other slave. She and William worked for the same white family, and they were allowed to marry. One day they decided to risk everything on a chance for freedom.

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.