Find out facts about their lives following their escape including how they told their story through public appearances, why they moved to England for twenty years and why they decided to return to the United States.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 1: The Crafts were husband and wife slaves who became well-known throughout the United States when they made a brave and daring escape to freedom.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 2: William was born on September 25, 1824 in Macon, Georgia and Ellen Craft was born in 1826 in Clinton, Georgia.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 3: William Craft's first slave owner was in financial trouble and he sold William to cover his debts from gambling. His mother and younger sister had already been sold separately.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 4: Ellen Craft's mother was a slave called Maria and she was mixed-race. Her father, Major James Smith, was a rich plantation owner. Major James Smith was both her father and slave owner.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 5: Ellen Craft was fair skinned due to her European ancestry and she resembled her half-siblings who were parented by her master, Major James Smith and his wife.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 6: At 11 years of age, the wife of Major James Smith gave Ellen Craft away as a wedding gift to her daughter Eliza Cromwell Smith. She didn't want the young girl in her house any longer as she was a reminder of her husband's infidelity.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 7: Ellen Craft became a servant to her master's daughter, and her own half-sister, Eliza Cromwell Smith. They moved to Macon following Eliza's marriage to Dr. Robert Collins.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 8: William Craft was sold to a new master when he was a young man. He became a carpenter's apprentice and was hired out in town. William was careful to save as much money as possible as one day he hoped to gain freedom from slavery.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 9: The couple met when they were teenagers, William was 16 and Ellen was 14 was years of age. The couple married around 1846. They wanted to have a family but it was important to them that their children were not raised as slaves. Therefore, the couple began planning their courageous escape from slavery.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 10: Ellen Craft's fair skin and appearance resembled a white woman's and she decided to use this to her advantage. The couple planned to make their escape by train and boat, traveling north towards their Free States. William would pretend to be Ellen's servant and travel with her.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 11: Their plan worked fabulously and it is now considered one of the most ingenious escapes in the history of slavery. The husband and wife team traveled by first class trains, dined with the steamboat captain and stayed in hotels!
William and Ellen Craft Fact 12: It was normal during these years for a slave to travel with his master, however, it was not standard practice for a woman to travel alone with a male slave. Therefore, Ellen Craft had to pretend to be a man. To pose as a man successfully, she had to cut her hair and wear trousers and a jacket.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 13: William Craft had saved money which he used to buy Ellen clothes to wear during their escape. He bought her a top hat, jacket, tartan, cravat and a tassel. Very cleverly, they managed to transform her look, giving her the appearance of a wealthy white male.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 14: To assist with their escape, Ellen Craft had to hide the fact that she couldn't write. She achieved this by wearing a sling on her right arm.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 15: The couple planned their escape route which involved making their way to Macon before taking a train to Savannah. After successfully making their way to Savannah, on December 21, they sailed to Philadelphia by steamship and arrived on Christmas Day.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 16: Following their successful escape to freedom, the couple became married in a Christian ceremony. They spoke with American abolitionists such as William Wells Brown and William Lloyd Garrison who encourage them to talk openly about their escape. The couple decided to do so, they made public appearances and their story captured a lot of attention.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 17: Following the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which encouraged slave catchers to kidnap slaves and return them to their masters, William and Ellen Craft decided it was no longer safe to remain in the United States and therefore, moved to Liverpool in England.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 18: The couple spent almost 20 years in England. They had five children together called Charles Estlin Philips, William Ivens, Brougham H., Alfred G. and Ellen A.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 19: The Crafts returned to the United States in 1868 following the American Civil War. Three of their five children returned with them. They settled in Georgia where they founded the Woodville Co-operative Farm School which provided an education to freedmen.
William and Ellen Craft Fact 20: The Crafts published an account of their experiences in 1960, it was called 'Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; Or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery.' The compelling story of their brave journey became widely known. The book was published before the American Civil War began and it reached an audience in both the UK and the United States. William died in 1900 and Ellen Craft died in 1891.
Short Facts about William and Ellen Craft for Kids
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