In the 1800s many enslaved people in the United States, especially those who lived in the Deep South, made valiant efforts to escape to freedom in the north. Many of the most well-known stories, like that of Harriet Tub- man and the people she helped ferry along the Underground Railroad, took place under the cover of darkness to avoid slave patrols and other local authorities, but Ellen Craft and her husband, William, took a different approach. Their daring escape took place in the broad light of day.
Ellen Craft was born in 1826 in Clinton, Georgia. Her father, Col. James Smith, was a white man and her first enslaver. Her mother, Maria, an African American woman, was also owned by Smith. Ellen was fair-skinned and resembled Smith and the children of his marriage, so much so that people frequently mistook her for one of them.