About the Project

Fugitive slave escaping the pursuit of a blood hound dog.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library. (1853).

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.


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.

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.

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.

A Joint Effort by Several Institutions