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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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Runaway Slave Advertisement from Revolutionary Virginia

After Virginia's royal governor, Lord Dunmore, promised freedom to indentured servants and slaves who would escape and serve in the British forces, newspapers printed numerous advertisements for runaways whose owners suspected them of responding to [...]

A Maryland Slave Runs Toward Freedom

Runaway slave advertisements offer a wealth of information about the movements and motivations of escaped slaves. This advertisement offers a reward for the capture and return of Sam MacKall, a Maryland slave who ran away from his master in Prince [...]

Item Type: Advertisement
Runaway Slave Advertisement from Antebellum Virginia

In this handbill from 1854, a Virginia slaveowner advertises a large reward for the return of a 33 year-old enslaved man. Historians have noted the use of woodprint images, such as the one seen here, as evidence of the frequency of runaway [...]

Item Type: Advertisement
Slave Advertisements in Colonial New York

As in the southern colonies, New York newspapers were filled with slave advertisements that provide many details about the life and labor of enslaved New Yorkers. Historian Jill Lepore calculates that 253 advertisements for runaway slaves and [...]

Background Essay on the Historiography of Slavery

This essay explains the shift in slavery historiography and how this continuing shift influenced the development of the Doing as They Can documentary.

Item Type: Article/Essay
Background Essay on the "Twenty Negro" Law

The so-called "Twenty Negro Law," enacted by the Confederate Congress in 1862, allowed an exemption from military service for slaveholders who owned twenty or more slaves. In effect, this allowed large plantation owners and overseers to avoid [...]

Background Essay on Civil War "Contraband"

This essay describes how runaway slaves escaped to Union camps, and how the army formed "contraband camps" to house runaway slaves and their families. 

Background Information on Slavery in the U.S.

These tables and statistics give basic facts about the growth and spread of slavery in the United States and some tables of statistics about slave populations.

Item Type: Article/Essay
Summary of the Emancipation Proclamation

Despite his personal opposition to slavery, when President Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861 he insisted that his constitutional duty was to keep the nation together, not to abolish slavery. He conducted the first year of the war with the goal of [...]

An English Philosopher Explains Why Slavery Intensifies Southerners' Desire for Liberty

In this essay excerpt, British political philosopher and member of Parliament Edmund Burke explains that the existence of slavery in the southern colonies helps to intensify the "fierce spirit of liberty" among white residents who recognize [...]

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