64 Parishes

Liberation on Their Own Terms

Freedom on the Move is the 2023 Best in Digital Humanities awardee

Published: May 31, 2023
Last Updated: August 31, 2023

Liberation on Their Own Terms

The Historic New Orleans Collection

Advertisements for Moses and Martha, two enslaved people seeking freedom, from the April 19, 1853, issue of the New Orleans Daily Crescent.

Freedom on the Move is a digitization initiative that has created a database of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century newspaper “runaway” advertisements offering rewards for the capture of people fleeing enslavement in North America. The University of New Orleans is one of five partner universities, including Cornell University, The Ohio State University, University of Alabama, University of Kentucky, plus the Hard History Project, working on the data project.

Launched in 2019, the Freedom on the Move team has worked with more than 15,000 contributors to crowd-source and digitize some 32,000 ads placed by enslavers or jailers seeking to locate runaway slaves across North America. To date, it is the largest digital collection of newspaper advertisements seeking people who self-emancipated from North American slavery. It serves as a research aid, pedagogical tool, and a resource for genealogists, scholars, students, and historians.

An outgrowth of the data-collecting initiative, Freedom on the Move in New Orleans launched as a pilot program last year. Freedom on the Move in New Orleans collaborators include the DISPLACED Project, Whitney Plantation Museum, Be Loud Studios, the Neighborhood Story Project, and local artists and historians. Using the database as a point of departure, the program introduces students to histories of enslaved people in New Orleans via place-based learning.  It provides students with an opportunity to explore historical facts from both archival and present-day examples, increase their understanding of the history of enslavement in North America, and consider the profound role that racialized discrimination plays in the inequities of different cities and regions across the continent. Learn more and explore the database at freedomonthemove.org.

Renee Royale is an artist, writer, independent curator, and digital strategist. Born in New York, she is a dual citizen of the United States and Barbados, and is currently based in New Orleans.