U.S. Marshal’s Return of Writ to Apprehend William Craft
This document comes from the file “Willis H. Hughes v. William Craft,” a civil case concerning William Craft, who was sought in Massachusetts under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
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William (1824-1900) and Ellen Craft (1826-1891) were enslaved people who escaped from their respective masters in Macon, GA, in December 1848. Ellen, the daughter of an African-American woman and a white master, passed as a white gentleman accompanied by a slave valet, William. They made their way to Boston, MA. The Census of 1850 shows them living in freedom at the home of Lewis Hayden. In 1850, a deputy U.S. Marshall sought them out at Hayden’s home, but Hayden denied that they were there and threatened violence, such that the U.S. Marshall departed. The Crafts fled to Britain, where they lived for 20 years, raising their family, lecturing about the freedom movement, and writing their memoir Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860) (available online from Documenting the American South (DocSouth). They later returned to the United States and settled in Georgia.
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