Free play tells of slave escape, love story

Ellen Craft and her husband William escaped slavery

in disquise. Their story will be told on stage.



A special one night-only love story will be presented by Detroit Mercy Theatre Company Thursday, Feb. 14, as part of Black History Month.

“A Thousand Miles to Freedom,” written and directed by professor Art Beer, will be offered free of charge at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom on the McNichols campus. 

It is described as a thrilling tale of love, deception and intrigue focused on blacks escaping slavery while one passes as a white man traveling with his servant.

It is based on the true story of two fugitive slaves, William and Ellen Craft, a husband and wife, who escaped slavery in 1848 and wrote a narrative of their escape titled “Running a Thousand Miles to Freedom.”

The couple met and were married on the plantation, then planned their escape knowing that they would have no right to their future children due to the laws of slavery.

Most slaves escaped under the cover of night or are hidden in cargo.

But Ellen, being an extremely light-skinned woman, made her escape disguised as an indigent white man traveling with his slave, who in truth was her husband, William. 

Because they had to make many public stops along the way, the pair had to be wise and cunning in order to overcome obstacles like Ellen’s illiteracy, her feminine attributes (she had no beard and sounded like a woman) and fugitive slave codes. 

The Crafts not only escaped, but they did so in a compelling way, essentially fooling the slave institution. 

After their escape the pair went on to London to become celebrities with their story spreading like wild fire.

“I had much rather starve in England, a free woman, than be a slave for the best man that ever breathed upon the American continent,” Ellen Clark said.

Admission is free and no tickets are required for the performance.