The Texas Runaway Slave Project (TRSP) is a database of runaway slave advertisements, articles and notices from newspapers published in Texas. The project has so far documented the names of over 400 individual runaway slaves. more
The Texas Runaway Slave Project (TRSP)
East Texas Research Center
Stephen F. Austin State University
Research Tools and Links
Summer 2014 Project - Funded by the Summerlee Foundation
Researchers: Darah Vann, Joanna Lovejoy,
Mark Musquiz, Michael Smith,
Nydia Hernandez, Patricio DeJesus
When slaves ran away from their owners, many masters placed ads in local and regional newspapers seeking help to return their absconded property back into servitude. These advertisements were often highly detailed, giving descriptions of the runaway’s intellectual and physical characteristics, material possessions, and likely travel plans. Often, the slave-owners posted a reward for the capture of runaways as an incentive for their return.
Newspaper stories about runaway slaves reminded Texans about the real threat free slaves posed to their slave society worldview. Runaways undermined the established order, and if left unchecked, it was supposed, might stir general or wider slave revolt. While the articles are not generally about individuals like the advertisements and notices, they provide helpful context on the subject.
“By an act of the last Legislature, the Sheriff is required, as early as possible after the commitment of a runaway slave to jail, to advertise said slave in some newspaper … for the space of six months; and if, by the end of that time, no owner appears and proves away such slave, then the Sheriff shall take the slave to the Penitentiary, where he shall be kept at hard labor … for life, unless sooner proved away by the agent or owner.” The Bellville Countryman, 5/8/1861.