Oil on linen tondos
38″ x 23″
This piece was inspired by the story of runaways, Ellen and William Craft, and the Underground Railroad. Ellen was the child of her master, and was so light-skinned she was mistaken for white. She and her husband, William, escaped from slavery by disguising Ellen as an injured white man, while William posed as her slave, speaking on her behalf so that their cover would not be compromised. The two portraits are the only known pictures of the Crafts, with Ellen in her disguise. The two took multiple trains from Georgia to Philadelphia and successfully escaped. The landscape and night sky are of the the Big Dipper, which was known as the Drinking Gourd by slaves. It was used by the Underground Railroad to help lead runaway slaves to the North to freedom. The story of the Crafts and the Underground Railroad are great examples of how people put their very lives at risk in order to escape to a better life by using the literal and figurative railroad.