COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- Using microfilm and analyzing newspapers dating back more than 100 years, MUW student Christian Friar is digging deep into Mississippi’s history to see how masters caught their runaway slaves.
“My research is part of my internship. It’s a project that’s working with Southern Miss for their database for runaway slave advertisements. So basically all summer I have been looking at microfilms and hardback of newspapers that are particularly in Lowndes County. Looking for runaway slave advertisements and also ads if the runaway slaves got caught,” said Friar.
Being a history major, Christian’s always valued our past.
“Whenever I’m thinking about newspapers, I never really did put two and two together that there were ads for runaway slaves. I’ve always figured that they would have ads for auctions and so at first I thought I wouldn’t find that many but I’m surprised I found as many as I did,” said Friar.
So far, Friar has found more than 100 runaway advertisements. Not only is she learning how they described slaves, she’s also noticed a difference in gender and the seasons slaves would choose to run.
“Usually they didn’t run away in the winter. So they prepared for the winter by getting winter clothes. You can also tell what age group ran away the most and it’s usually males between the ages of 17 and 45. I’ve also noticed that if they were female they ran away in groups and if they had children they would try to take as many as they can,” said Friar.
Mona Vance is an archivist at the Columbus Lowndes County Public Library. She says slavery remains a touchy subject, but as a nation, researching these advertisements gives us a greater understanding of today’s society.
“It was definitely a horrible institution, but it was very complex. It really shows and traces the interconnections of the entire nation. You know, we think of it as the South. Well, it was the south, but it was specific locations also connected to other states and other regions and so it really kind of broadens the idea of the institution of slavery and how everyone was sort of kind of helping each other keep that institution in place,” said Vance.
For Christian Friar, the past shapes the present. She is now inspired to continue her research into slavery long after the internship is over. Officials plan on organizing the documents into a searchable online database for anyone who wants to learn about this time period.