William & Ellen Craft

Often referred to as the Great Escape, William and Ellen Craft pulled off one of the most brilliant escape plans in American hsitory. Ellen (1826-1891) posed as a white man and her husband William (1824-1900) as her servant.

On the morning of December 21, 1848, the couple began their escape to freedom by boarding a train from Macon, Goergia to
Savannah, where they boarded a steamship bound for Charleston, South Carolina. There, they took a steamship to Wilmington, North Carolina, and then a train to Aquia Landing in Stafford, Virginia. They boarded their final steamship headed for Washington, D.C., wheere they caught a train to Baltimore, Maryland, and made thier way across the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania on Christmas morning.

Their escape so irked slaveowners in the South that new legislation was issued to prevent others from attempting to self-emancipate: The Fugutive Slave Act of 1850. The Crafts short-lived peace of mind caused them to flee their new home in Boston to England where they would be safe from bounty hunters. It was there, with the help of abolotionsits, that the Crafts were learned to read and write and tell their story in their book Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom. They also had five children: Charles Estlin Phillips, William, Brougham, Alfred, and Ellen. William would go on to establish an orphanage in Ouidah where he also worked very hard to convince the King to stop participating in the slave. While William travelled in Africa, Ellen stayed behind to fundraise for his work in Africa.

After the Civil War was over, the couple returned tot he United States where they continued to endure the hatefulness of Southern whites. Some of their children returmed to England for not having the stomach to take the abuses for whcih they had not encountered i their country of England.

The Crafts, however, remained in the United States where they died and are buried. Ellen, under her favorite tree n Georgia and William in Charleston, South Carolina.

The transcribed veriosn of the Craft story can be found here.

Their descendants visited with CAAGRI at the 2011 Juneteeenth celebration at Aquia Landing.