Brad Lewis Post 1: Craft and Jefferson

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom gives the first-hand account of William and Ellen’s Crafts escape from slavery. The narrative, written by William Craft, tells the thrilling and dangerous events of their journey from slaves in Georgia to free blacks in the England. Besides the fun, action-packed storyline, the narrative also addresses many serious issues surrounding slavery and discrimination on the basis of race. Throughout the text, Craft addresses and gives examples of moments displaying what it means to be black, white, and/or a slave in the 1850s. Craft’s use of allusions brings an added value to this issue and the narrative as a whole. Perhaps one of the more interesting ideas discussed throughout the narrative stems from the experiences of Ellen Craft and other mixed or white slaves. To further this discussion, Craft cleverly alludes to the life story of a well-known founding father, Thomas Jefferson.

One of Craft’s largest statements about the racial issues of the time center around the idea of him, and slaves in general, as chattel. This is the foundation of the whole slave system as it regards slaves as property of their master. Throughout the narrative, Craft refers to himself not as a person, but rather as property. Everything he does within his context as a slave is centered around serving his master.

Many assume the distinction of a person as a slave stems purely from their dark skin tone. However, Craft explains this not to be fully true. The most blatant example he uses is his wife, Ellen. She is of fair complexion stemming from her white slave-owning father and black slave mother. By eye, she is not much different than any other free white. Throughout their escape, she is able to fit in as a white slave-owner without many questions. However, despite her complexion, she is still regarded as property within the slave system. This contradiction forms the basis for a strange practice within the slave system. As Craft explains, it was very common for white slave-owners to take interest in their women slaves and to have children with them. Yet, as was the case for Ellen Craft, the children, despite being part white and blood kin to the master, must suffer and live their lives as slaves. “That is to say, the father of the slave may be the President of the Republic; but if the mother should be a slave at the infant’s birth, the poor child is ever legally doomed to the same cruel fate” (Craft).

Craft alludes to the life of Thomas Jefferson in the quote above in order to call out this unjust system further. It was rumored in Craft’s time and is now known that Jefferson fostered many children with slave wives, and all the children were forced to work as slaves despite being the kids of one of the most influential men in America. This allusion continues a few pages later when Craft uses a poem written by William Wells Brown. Brown was a free black writer in the 19th century that famously wrote a book about one of Jefferson’s slave daughters. Craft cleverly uses this allusion to piggyback on the hot rumors of the time surrounding Jefferson. This allows him to better address this very strange practice with the barbaric system of slavery. While Craft decides to leave the more graphic and violent scenes of slavery out of the narrative, he is still able to portray its wickedness effectively by explaining some of its weird practices and laws.