Famous Slave Escapes

It was not uncommon for slaves to try to escape given the treatment that they were often subjected to. The life of a fugitive was almost impossible for many; if they were caught without a pass from their master, a white man would be free to detain and punish them. Many people made it their business to interrogate lone black slaves as it became quite profitable; there was the possibility of reciving a finder's fee if the master was located, or if the slave was not claimed, they would be re-sold and the person that had initially caught him would sometimes receive part of the profit.

There are brutal accounts of the dogs used for tracking slaves tearing runaways limb from limb, although some slaves had their own method of dealing with these, ranging from teaching the dogs to fear the slaves by beating them at every opportunity, to smearing chicken grease on their feet. Assuming both dogs and men were successfully avoided, escaped slaves would struggle finding food or shelter. They would occasionally visit a nearby plantation at night to steal provisions, or even to sleep if afraid of the wild animals.

See below to read about some of the most daring and flamboyant slave escapes.
Henry 'Box' Brown
Former slave Henry 'Box' Brown mailed himself to freedom in a small crate; a dangrous journey that lasted over 27 hours.

Ellen and William Craft
Slaves Ellen and William Craft escaped their masters with Ellen dressed as a disabled, bandaged man and William posing as her slave.

Eliza Harris
The unknown slave later nicknamed Eliza Harris, escaped with her baby from slave hunters across treacherous ice floes.

Robert Smalls
Robert Smalls escaped slavery on a confederate steamer, posing as captain and passing confederate barricades before changing direction and heading to free waters.


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