University Project Is Creating a Database of Runaway Slave Advertisements

freedomThe Freedom on the Move project, based at Cornell University in New York, aims to compile an extensive database of all runaway slave advertisements that appeared in newspapers during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Leaders of the project estimate that there be as many as 100,000 of these advertisements.

The advertisements provide a unique look at history. The ads include detailed information about slaves’ names, appearance, mannerisms, styles of dress, states of origin, and possible destinations. Once the project is complete, researchers will be able to conduct statistical analyses of the data.

EdwardBaptistEdward E. Baptist, professor of history at Cornell and an organizer of the project, stated that “when students or others do the work it takes to get one of these ads recorded and analyzed, they become part of a bigger community dedicated to preserving the fugitive traces left on history by people who refused to let slavery contain them.”

Professor Baptist is a graduate of Georgetown University and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Creating an Old South: Middle Florida’s Plantation Frontier Before the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2002) and The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books, 2014).

Professor Mary N. Mitchell of the University of New Orleans and professor Joshua Rothman of the University of Alabama are collaborating on the project.

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