They had got permission for a few days leave just before Christmas, and as they were valued slaves, this in itself wasn't too difficult for them. It gave them a buffer of a few days before anyone started looking for them.
They hit a snag almost immediately. The local station seemed to be chock full of people they knew, putting them in danger of being recognised. When a friend of Ellen's mistress sat right next to her (when I bet there were loads of other seats), she immediately pretended to be Deaf; a handy tactic they reused whenever convenient to stop any conversation in its tracks.
They encountered a number of people on their journey north who hilariously warned them that abolitionists would try to convince William to run away, but people were impressed at how well he cared for his sickly young master. Ellen made friends with steamer captains, rich men and guards, being invited to dinners and drinks and offered the nicest bedrooms.
Her ‘disabilities’ allowed them to pass through areas quickly, avoid raising suspicion and prompted kindness from many. While there were some hairy occasions on their journey (at one point they were briefly detained) their plan worked.
On Christmas Day 1848, Philadelphia gained two new residents.
Ellen and William lived anxiously but happily there, becoming high profile advocates for abolition. Less than two years later the Fugitive Slave Act was made law and slave hunters were sent to capture them.
They had hoped to use the couple as an example. No matter how far you run, how famous you are, we will find you and we will catch you.
And so, yet again, they bundled up their lives and escaped into the unknown.
"It was not until we stepped ashore at Liverpool that we were free from every slavish fear." -William Craft
They lived in Britain for nineteen years- many of them spent in London- speaking and campaigning for abolition, universal suffrage and telling the story of their escape.
In those years, they learned to read and write, built up a wide social circle and were frequently invited to posh dinner parties, where Ellen gained a reputation for arguing with racists who had unwittingly been sat next to her. But most importantly for them, they had 5 children and finally, the freedom and the family they had always wanted.