A Thousand Miles and Counting, presented by the Savannah College of Art and Design, is the short-film documentary of two runaway slaves, William and Ellen Craft.
In 1848, the Crafts, an enslaved African-American couple, made a perilous journey to freedom to escape their enslavement in Macon, Georgia. Their plan was to disguise Ellen, the biracial daughter of her slave master, as a deaf male slave owner. Her husband Willam was to be her manservant. The Crafts left their plantation in the dead of night as quietly as possible so that they did not disturb their master. When the Crafts arrived at the train station, they bought two tickets for the journey North. However, a cabinetmaker with whom Willam worked saw the two through the window of the train. Luckily, the train left the station before the Crafts could be taken back to their master.
They began their journey from Macon passing through the Center of Georgia Railway depot in Savannah. The SCAD Museum of Art stands there today. They continued on by train further north to Philadelphia. The Crafts eventually settled in Boston, where they made a life for themselves. Ellen Craft became a seamstress, while Willam Craft began making cabinets. However, in 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law was enacted, and the Crafts were forced to uproot their lives once more.
They decided to leave Boston and journey to the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, during the journey the Crafts fell ill. Ellen Craft was so sick that her husband did not believe that she would survive the Atlantic. In a stroke of luck, she survived to see Liverpool. They settled in London, where they lived for 18 years and were able to acquire an education. The Crafts had five children, all in England. They also took part in the anti-slavery movement present in the country.
Afterward, the Crafts decided to return to the United States. They founded a school for African-Americans with the education that they had received while in London.Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)’s new documentary is based on the book Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, a written account by the Crafts from 1860.
Honoring the Crafts
In 2016, SCAD commissioned and installed a commemorative bronze medallion designed by SCAD graduate and foundation studies professor Andrew MacDonald (M.F.A., illustration, 2014), in the lobby of the SCAD Art Museum to honor the Crafts’ feat. SCAD Museum of Art’s Walter O. Evans Center for African American Studies has partnered with the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System to share the Crafts’ story with students in Savannah for a community-engaged learning experience.
“A Thousand Miles and Counting” tells the Crafts’ unique story through the words of their direct descendants. The film, which is about 10 minutes long, is available for viewing at the SCAD Museum of Art and on the museum’s website.
A premiere for the film will be held November 15 at SCAD. After the screening, Joël Díaz, director of SCAD MOA’s Evans Center for African-American Studies, will lead a conversation on the importance of preserving African-American history and documenting acts of resistance.