Great Slave Escapes

We’re taught in school, and it has become common sense, that slaves would try escaping in order to achieve freedom but there are many stories of Black slaves running to find a lost loved one or even a family member. Freed or escaped slaves would tell their stories so that all of America could evaluate the injustice of slavery, one story about a slave mother tells of her hardship and perseverance for not only freedom for herself but for the ones that she loved as well. Harriet Jacobs was born into slavery in North Carolina in the 1800s, as a child Harriet was sheltered from the hardships of slavery. She was raised by her mother and then later by her mother’s mistress who died in the 1820s and gave Harriet along with a handful of other slaves to her nephew Dr. James Norcom. Harriet was repeatedly sexually abused by Norcom which is when her hardships truly started. Norcom forbade marriage between Harriet and her lover Samuel Sawyer, a white lawyer, and when Harriet had her kids Norcom threatened to sell them. After much struggle Harriet escaped from her brutal master Norcom and lived in an attic as she watched her kids grow up without a mother but were safe under their fathers watch. Age twenty nine Harriet escaped to Philadelphia by boat then moved to New York and directed all of her attention to try to rescue her children from slavery. After she freed her children she became an effective abolitionist and a nurse during the civil war. Harriet’s acts did not just end with her own freedom but her love for others drove her to ensure the freedom of her loved ones. 

            Slaves were tedious to run away with another slave or a group because of the greater risk of attracting attention to themselves. The slave’s care for one another ended up being another reason why they would plan escapes together, such as William and Ellen Craft. These two slaves met each other in Macon Georgia after both of their brutal family separations, Ellen, frequently mistaken as a white girl because of her light complexion, served as a ladies maid and William was an apprenticed cabinetmaker. Ellen and William got married and decided that to start a family they needed to run away and become free. After much thought William Craft devised a plan that would lead him and his wife into a better life but their risky escape met many challenges. In William’s escape plan his light colored wife was to be a white male slave master who was taking his slave to another state, William was to play the slave travelling with their kind master. The couple put a lot of thought into their plan, so much so Ellen cut her hair to neck length and put her arm in a sling so she wouldn’t have to sign any papers for her identification. Ellen also had bandages on her face to hide her smooth skin and it would give her a reason to not do much talking. The couple barely made it to Philadelphia but due to their fast improvisation when meeting other white masters they made it to freedom. Despite their freedom Ellen and William were forced to continue playing their roles for a while until the underground network abolitionist helped them start their lives as well as teaching them how to read and write. After two years slave hunters were sent to find the Crafts so the ex-slaves fled to England to start their family that they escaped for. The story of the Crafts and Harriet Jacobs became a testament to the endurance of slaves and the way they pursued freedom for the sake of people they were willing to die for and for the African American people in the next generation.




Escape and Rescue: Two Stories of Slave Women in America.” Yahoo! Contributor Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2013.

“Underground Railroad.” SLAVES ESCAPE. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2013.

“” Smithsonian Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 July 2013.


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