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Topics in Chronicling America - Fugitive Slave Ads

WANTED: Fugitive slaves! Slave owners place ads in newspapers offering rewards for the capture and return of those who defiantly escape enslavement. Ads contain names and descriptions of escapees, including physical and distinctive features, literacy level, specialized skills, and where an escapee might be headed and why. Discover rare details about the lives and experiences of those who resist slavery. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/). Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.


Fugitive Slave Ad

Jump to: Sample Articles

Important Dates:

  • Prior to 1865: Hundreds of thousands of black slaves attempt to flee from bondage.
  • February 12, 1793: The Fugitive Slave Act passes into law requiring local governments of free states to enforce the capture and return of runaway slaves to their masters. This sparks outrage in Northern states who work to circumvent the law.
  • September 18, 1850: Amendment to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 passes, known as the “Compromise of 1850,” enforces harsher penalties for those who interfere with the capture and return of runaway slaves.
  • 1730 – 1865: An estimated 200,000 fugitive slave ads appear in U.S. newspapers.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Fugitive, mulatto, negro, ran away, ranaway, reward, run away, runaway, slave, subscriber.
  • The term “subscriber” found in many ads refers to the person placing the ad.
  • It is important to use a specific date range in order to narrow your results. To narrow your results for this topic, search between 1789 – 1865.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

  • "Thirty Dollars Reward," Gazette of the United States (New York, NY), June 30, 1792, Page 33, Image 1, col. 1.
  • "Runaway in Jail," Southern Sentinel (Palquemine, LA), October 26, 1850, Page 3, Image 1, col. 1.
  • "NEGROES LOST OR STOLEN," The Daily Bulletin (Winchester, TN), January 25, 1863, Page 2, Image 2, col. 4.
  • "Runaway," The Camden Confederate (Camden, SC), May 1, 1863, Page 2, Image 2, col. 4.
  • "Twenty Dollars Reward," The National Intelligencer and Washington Advertizer (Washington, DC), February 14, 1806, Page 4, Image 4, col. 4.
  • "$200 REWARD," The Abingdon Virginian (Abingdon, VA), November 6, 1863, Page 3, Image 3, col. 5.
  • "ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD," The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, VA), August 2, 1862, Page 3. Image 4, col. 7.
  • "RANAWAY," Semi-Weekly Standard (Raleigh, NC), June 23, 1863, Page 2, Image 2, col. 4.
  • "$150 REWARD," The North-Carolinian (Fayetteville, NC), June 10, 1854, Page 1, Image 3, col. 2.
  • "$50 REWARD," The Opelousas Courier (Opelousas, LA), November 10, 1860, Page 2, Image 2, col. 6.
  • "Runaway," Columbus Democrat (Columbus, MS), August 18, 1838, Page 4, Image 4, col. 6.
  • "Runaway, in Jail," The Eastern Clarion (Paulding, MS), July 19, 1861, Page 3, Image 3, col. 6.
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  June 29, 2017
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