Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom: The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom: The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom: The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom: The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery

Synopsis

In 1848 William and Ellen Craft made one of the most daring and remarkable escapes in the history of slavery in America. With fair-skinned Ellen in the guise of a white male planter and William posing as her servant, the Crafts traveled by rail and ship--in plain sight and relative luxury--from bondage in Macon, Georgia, to freedom first in Philadelphia, then Boston, and ultimately England.

This edition of their thrilling story is newly typeset from the original 1860 text. Eleven annotated supplementary readings, drawn from a variety of contemporary sources, help to place the Crafts' story within the complex cultural currents of transatlantic abolitionism.

Excerpt

Barbara McCaskill

In the literature and lore of transatlantic abolition, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860) is one of the most extraordinary, yet least often evaluated, works. Anthologies more routinely include The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789), which went into its eighth edition in less than five years, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), which reached nine British printings in a phenomenal two years, or Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (1861), which probably would have gone into several editions if the nation had not plunged into the Civil War.

Frederick Douglass may have been the abolitionists’ thunder. Harriet Tubman may have been their fierce, unflappable soldier. the movement’s love child, John Brown, may have been the hellbent angel and their homespun mystic and martyr. Without a shred of doubt, however, the Crafts, going by their sobriquet of the “Georgia Fugitives,” rivaled the celebrity of all these icons in the decades following their flight from bondage. As Arna Bontemps writes in his Great Slave Narratives (1969), an important attempt at identifying the influence, reception, and quality of the genre, “Apparently no two slaves in their flight for freedom ever thrilled the world so much as did this handsome young couple.” They “became heroes, about whom speeches were made and poems written” (269).

For all this glory, the Crafts were Georgia’s heroes without a home. Peruse any respectable history of African American life and culture—from a university classroom standard like From Slavery to Freedom (1997) to a bookstore staple like the three-volume Afri-

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