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  • Escaping Slavery: The Story of William and Ellen Craft

    Explained by Dr. John Inscoe of the New Georgia Encyclopedia and Dr. Barbara McCaskill, William and Ellen Craft's daring escape from slavery involved Ellen Craft posing as a white slaveholder with her light skin and William posing as her body servant. Their perilous journey took them through major east coast cities north to Philadelphia then Boston. After escaping to freedom, they traveled widely in the United States as abolitionists.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Explain how William and Ellen Craft were able to deceive the public and escape to freedom.

    2. Why is it significant that Ellen, the daughter of a black slave and her white master, was able to pass as white?

    Expansion

    1. Perform a play or create a video based on William and Ellen Craft's escape to freedom.

    Vocabulary

    valet: a man's personal male attendant, responsible for his clothes and appearance
    affluent: having an abundance of wealth, property, or other material goods
    poster-child: a person or thing that represents a specified quality or cause
    promiscuous: not restricted to one sexual partner
    lucrative: producing a great deal of wealth or profit
    remand: return to

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Explain how William and Ellen Craft were able to deceive the public and escape to freedom.
    Because of her light skin, Ellen Craft posed a sickly, frail white man who was traveling with his slave, William. Acting as though she had several ailments, Ellen was able to avoid speaking and writing in public. 

    2. Why is it significant that Ellen, the daughter of a black slave and her white master, was able to pass as white?
    During this time, there were very rigid rules around what it meant to be white and what it meant to be black. Her ability to pass as white put racial identity and classification into question.

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