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Cornell University (Ithaca, NY 14853-2801)
Edward E. Baptist (Project Director: September 2014 to April 2017)
William C. Block (Co Project Director: March 2015 to April 2017)
Freedom on the Move: A Crowdsourced, Comprehensive Database of North American Runaway Slave Advertisements

The further design and development of a database of runaway slave advertisements from pre-1865 US newspapers drawing from several historical collections.  The project would also experiment with crowdsourcing approaches to enrich the database records.

'Freedom on the Move' (FOTM) creates a digital resource from an estimated 100,000 runaway slave advertisements from pre-1865 U.S. newspapers. Placed by enslavers when enslaved people attempted to escape, these ads included extensive information about fugitives. They comprise the richest source of information about enslaved individuals in the United States, yet no comprehensive collection of them exists. FOTM will collect these ads and use crowdsourcing to parse their data into a database, enabling sophisticated new analyses of the history of U.S. slavery. A crowdsourcing interface will provide a site for public engagement with an enduring national trauma, supporting lessons for K-12, university, and museum education. The database will be freely available for browsing and exportable for research. NEH start-up funding will enable us to build tools for incorporating large-scale data from contributors, creating a prototype for future expansions of this and similar digital resources.

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Project fields:
African American History; U.S. History

Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants

Digital Humanities

$59,989 (approved)
$51,622 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2015 – 8/31/2016