Rediscovering the stories of
Self-Liberating people

A database of fugitives from American Slavery

Crowdsource & Search Ads

About the Project

Sketch portraying a fugitive climbing into a tree to escape a bloodhound.

Freedom on the Move is a database of fugitives from North American slavery.

With the advent of newspapers in the American colonies, enslavers posted “runaway ads” to try to locate fugitives. Additionally, jailers posted ads describing people they had apprehended in search of the enslavers who claimed the fugitives as property.

Ad featuring an escaped slave owned by Thomas Jefferson.

We are compiling thousands of stories of resistance that have never been accessible in one place.

Created to control the movement of enslaved people, the ads ultimately preserved the details of individual lives--their personality, appearance, and life story. Taken collectively, the ads constitute a detailed, concise, and rare source of information about the experiences of enslaved people.

Man with a bindle stick.

Research driven by you.

After initial curation, the ads become available for crowdsourcing. The crowdsourcing process populates a full-text transcription and additional searchable metadata within the database.

Woman with a bindle stick

A database full of possibilities.

Freedom on the Move will serve as a research aid, a pedagogical tool, and a resource for genealogists. Scholars, students, and citizen historians will be able to use the data produced from the ads in new and creative ways.

Made for Everyone

Scholars

Use our advanced search to navigate the database & find the data you need. Then export the results to JSON / CSV and use with your tool of choice.

Students

Establish a deeper connection to the period through the lens of those seeking freedom. The history contained within the advertisements is living.

Citizen Historians

Explore the stories captured in the advertisements. Contribute your time to help transcribe. Search the database to see if any blanks can be filled in your ancestry.

Selected Testimonials

Our Interdisciplinary Team

Edward E. Baptist

Professor
Department of History
Cornell University

William C. Block

Director
CISER
Cornell University

Vanessa M. Holden

Assistant Professor
Department of History
University of Kentucky

Hasan Kwame Jeffries

Associate Professor
Department of History
The Ohio State University

Mary Niall Mitchell

Associate Professor
Department of History
University of New Orleans

Joshua D. Rothman

Professor
Department of History
University of Alabama

Elena Goloborodko

Project Manager
CISER
Cornell University

Janet Heslop

IT Director
CISER
Cornell University

Brandon T. Kowalski

Software Engineer
CISER
Cornell University

Chris Perez

Software Developer
CISER
Cornell University

Other Contributors

Manolo Beviá

Cornell University Library
Cornell University

Mindy Marie Jarrett

Department of History
University of New Orleans

Michelle Paolillo

Cornell University Library
Cornell University

Jasmine Burns

Cornell University Library
Cornell University

Jason Kovari

Cornell University Library
Cornell University

Madeleine Casad

Cornell University Library
Cornell University

Jeremy Williams

CISER
Cornell University

A joint effort by Several Institutions

Cornell University
CISER
Cornell University Library
University of Alabama
The University of New Orleans
University of Kentucky
The Ohio State University

Made possible by Generous Grant Funding

National Endowment for the Humanities
National Historical Publications & Records Commission

Get In Touch

If you have any questions please contact us & be sure to follow us on Twitter!

Contact Us @fotmproject