These five ‘gangsta’ slaves made some of the most daring escapes we’ll never forget

Mildred Europa Taylor Feb 12, 2020 at 12:00pm

February 12, 2020 at 12:00 pm | History, Opinions & Features

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Associate Editor

February 12, 2020 at 12:00 pm | History, Opinions & Features

Ellen Craft dressed as a white male planter. Photo: Black Then

Ellen Craft

Born in 1826 in Clinton, Georgia, light-skinned slave Ellen Craft married William in 1846 while they were still being held in slavery by different owners. And since they both did not want to raise their future children in slavery, they made plans to escape.

Using Ellen’s skin tone as an advantage, they pretended to be a white master and her a slave to board trains and a steamboat to reach freedom. In December 1848, Ellen cut her hair, dressed in men’s clothing and feigned sickness to limit conversation during their journey to freedom. She also wore a sling to hide the fact that she could not write. The Crafts rode first class, stayed in fancy hotels and Ellen dined with a steamboat captain.

On December 21, 1848, the couple boarded a steamship and were able to reach Philadelphia. They stayed with some abolitionists before moving to Boston. Due to slave catchers, the Crafts traveled to Portland, Oregon, and eventually to England where they lived and raised a family. They made a living by conducting speaking engagements about slavery in the United States and recounting their escape. 

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