Runaway Slave Ads Project

The class will explore what technology can — and cannot — tell us about slavery and enslaved people from the runaway slave ads published in Texas newspapers during the antebellum era.

As the western-edge of the American South, Texas held nearly 200,000 enslaved people by the eve of the U.S. Civil War. Hundreds of those men and women ran away every year from Texas plantations and farms, prompting their masters to advertise in newspapers for their capture and return. Because these ads often provided physical descriptions, motives for escape, and speculation about where each fugitive went, they offer scholars a window into the harsh realities of Texas slavery that is available nowhere else.

These runaway slave ads are now available through UNT’s Portal to Texas History newspaper collection.