An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections
Posted on November 13, 2013
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Jesse P. Karlsberg, Emory University, Sarah Melton, Emory University, and Alan G. Pike, Emory University

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This month, Southern Spaces sent out our annual readership reports to authors who have published with the journal. These reports provide statistics on pageviews and unique readers over the past year. This year we also added cumulative totals for pageviews and unique readers since 2008, when we began tracking visits to our site with Google Analytics.

As a digital open access journal, Southern Spaces is committed to supporting our authors in communicating the value of their publications to tenure and promotion committees. Members of such committees may not have experience evaluating digital publications and may be inclined to undervalue them—even though, in our case, publications undergo the same rigorous standards of review as equally selective print journals. Southern Spaces pieces also have some advantages over print publications. Our site is well optimized for search engines, and we promote our publications to an interested audience through our Facebook and Twitter accounts. This ensures that many of our authors' pieces earn a wide readership.

We think that our readership reports attest to the benefits of open access publication and engagement with social media, and we hope they help convey such benefits to our authors and their tenure and promotion committees. In the hope of starting a conversation about how digital scholarly publications contribute to tenure and promotion, we are sharing details of Southern Spaces' readership reports process in this post.

Southern Spaces visits, September 1, 2012–August 31, 2013. Screenshot from Google Analytics.
Southern Spaces visits, September 1, 2012–August 31, 2013. Screenshot from Google Analytics.

The screenshot above illustrates daily unique visits to Southern Spaces over the past year. From September 1, 2012–August 31, 2013, we averaged about 11,250 visits per month, with a peak of 1,823 visits on February 4, 2013.1 Since 2008 our readership has increased every year. Our total this year of 135,192 unique readers represented a 15.6% increase over the previous year.

Readership report email template, 2013. Courtesy of Southern Spaces.
Readership report email template, 2013. Courtesy of Southern Spaces.

We extracted information on page views and visits from Google Analytics for each Southern Spaces publication. We sent each author an email to pass this information along. In past years we have drawn on Google Analytics to compile statistics on each piece's readers over the previous year. This year we decided that we would also send cumulative statistics demonstrating each publication's readership since we began tracking site visits in 2008. We are hopeful that this additional information will paint a more accurate picture of the wide readership and reach of many of our publications.

Share bar for "North Carolina: A State of Shock" by Dan T. Carter, 2013. Courtesy of Southern Spaces.
Share bar for "North Carolina: A State of Shock" by Dan T. Carter, 2013. Courtesy of Southern Spaces.

There are several ways in which we take advantage of the accessibility of our open access format to spread the word about our publications. We promote our pieces through social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook, an RSS feed, and an email listserv. We hope that these efforts help bring the scholarly work in the journal to a broad readership that extends beyond the limits of the academy. We have recently added a share menu to the upper right-hand corner of Southern Spaces publications as a first step toward providing robust altmetrics for our publications. We also use our blog to discuss contemporary issues concerning the US South and the digital humanities, highlighting relevant Southern Spaces publications. Finally, we regularly feature past publications that speak to contemporary concerns in the "featured" section of our homepage, another way our pieces continue to find readers long after they are published.

Southern Spaces tenure and promotion survey, 2013. Screenshot courtesy of Southern Spaces.
Southern Spaces tenure and promotion survey, 2013. Screenshot courtesy of Southern Spaces.

In addition to highlighting statistics, we asked each author for feedback on how we might better measure and communicate the benefits of publishing in a peer-reviewed, multimedia, open access platform such as ours. In a three-question survey, we asked our authors to share their experiences using Southern Spaces publications for tenure and promotion and solicited suggestions for information or services we could provide to assist with this.

We consider our readership reports to be an important part of our advocacy for open access publishing. As these reports demonstrate, publishing in open access venues helps scholarship reach a large and engaged audience and facilitates dissemination across the social web. We hope that these reports help our authors gain academic credit for their open access and digital publications.

  • 1. During the same period, Southern Spaces attracted roughly 14,000 pageviews per month, 167,587 in total.
Posted on November 13, 2013
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Erika Harding, Emory University

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On Monday, November 11, residents of the city of Atlanta were surprised to learn that their baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, will move to a new suburban stadium in 2017. When the lease on the team's current home at Turner Field expires in 2016, the Braves will move to a new ballpark at the northwest intersection of I-75 and I-285 in Cobb County.

Turner Field, April 6, 2013. Photograph by Zpb52. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Turner Field, April 6, 2013. Photograph by Zpb52. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Braves moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1966 and have played in downtown Atlanta ever since their arrival. Before they began playing at Turner Field in 1997, the home of the Braves was Atlanta-Fulton Stadium; this ballpark was demolished and transformed into parking spaces when the team moved to Turner Field. The ballpark was named after team owner and CNN founder Ted Turner, who purchased the team in 1976.

The Associated Press reports that the Braves have long expressed dissatisfaction with Turner Field. As Maria Saporta wrote in the Saporta Report, an absence of neighborhood development, limited parking facilities, and the fact that the closest Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) station is a mile away contributed to the Braves' unhappiness with their current facility. Atlanta Braves vice president of operations Mike Plant stated, "We . . . recognize that what is insurmountable is we can't control traffic, which is the No. 1 reason why our fans don't come to more games. . . . We are underserved by about 5,000 parking spaces." Many Atlanta residents are concerned that the new stadium site will not be easily accessible via MARTA. As Edward A. Hatfield has noted, residents of Cobb County, an epicenter of suburbanization and white flight in the Metro-Atlanta region, have long opposed government spending on public transportation.

In a press conference and statement Mayor Kasim Reed explained the lack of an agreement to keep the Braves in downtown Atlanta, citing demands by the Braves for "hundreds of millions of dollars" in new infrastructure spending. Reed argued these would have left the city "absolutely cash-strapped" and exacerbated the current backlog of planned infrastructure projects. He also announced plans to redevelop the Turner Field site, promising "one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had."

Distribution of Atlanta Braves fanbase and location of Turner Field and proposed new stadium, November 2013. Map courtesy of the Atlanta Braves.
Distribution of Atlanta Braves fanbase and location of Turner Field and proposed new stadium, November 2013. Map courtesy of the Atlanta Braves.
Percentage of metro Atlanta white residents by 2010 census block group, 2013. Data from Social Explorer.
Percentage of metro Atlanta white residents by 2010 census block group, 2013. Data from Social Explorer.

Forbes contributor Maury Brown claims that the new stadium will follow a current trend in stadium development in the United States. As teams build new ballparks with smaller capacities, ticket prices rise as demand increases. Furthermore, according to the Associated Press, census data reveals that the team is moving to a much wealthier area that is in the heart of the team's fan base. Median household income in the proposed area in Cobb County sits at approximately $61,000, with a poverty level of 8.6 percent. This contrasts dramatically with the median household income of $23,000 and nearly forty percent poverty level in the neighborhood around Turner Field.

Centennial Olympic Stadium, 1996. Photograph by Edwin P. Ewing, Jr. From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library, 1485.
Centennial Olympic Stadium, 1996. Photograph by Edwin P. Ewing, Jr. From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library, 1485.

Originally called Centennial Olympic Stadium—the site was constructed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics—the stadium hosted athletics competitions and opening and closing ceremonies. S. Zebulon Baker and Kerry Soper noted in 2006, the tenth anniversary of the Atlanta Olympics, that its construction dramatically changed Atlanta, displacing the residents of Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, and Summerhill neighborhoods. An important piece of Atlanta's history, Turner Field has left an indelible mark on the city's cultural and economic landscape.

Posted on October 22, 2013
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Stewart Varner, Emory University

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Emory University's Center for Digital Scholarship and Georgia State University's Cities Initiative and the Department of Geosciences invite proposals for presentations at the Second Annual Atlanta Studies Symposium. The day-long symposium will be held April 4, 2014 at Georgia State University and will feature presentations by, among others, Clarence Stone, Research Professor at George Washington University and author of Regime Politics: Governing Atlanta, 1946–1988, and LeeAnn Lands, Associate Professor of American Studies and History, Kennesaw State University and author of The Culture of Property: Race, Class, and Housing Landscapes in Atlanta, 1880–1950.

The symposium seeks to convene an interdisciplinary meeting of scholars and activists to learn from and act on research about Atlanta, including the central city and its metropolitan area.

Potential themes for presentation topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Public Space and Private Property
  • Downtown Atlanta as a Site of Political Struggle
  • Urban Mobility and Access
  • Urban Politics
  • Identity and Place in a Global Southern City

Proposals for papers, talks, multi-media presentations, or round-table discussions should be no more than 400 words. We welcome proposals on any aspect of Atlanta, but priority will be given to those that relate to the themes listed above. Preference will also be given to proposals for fully constituted panels. Cover letters for panels should indicate the theme and identify panel participants. We hope to make this event as engaging as possible and encourage presentations that represent work-in-progress that will benefit from open conversation. Please include audio-video requirements in your proposal.

Send your proposals via email to ecds@emory.edu by 5:00 p.m. on January 17, 2014. Contact Stewart Varner (stewart.varner@emory.edu) with any questions.

Posted on October 21, 2013
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Meredith Doster, Emory University

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Megabus Coach USA MCI 102EL3 #29030, August 8, 2006. Photograph by Steinsky. Courtesy of Steinsky.
Megabus Coach USA MCI 102EL3 #29030, August 8, 2006. Photograph by Steinsky. Courtesy of Steinsky. 

Last Spring, Edward A. Hatfield wrote for Southern Spaces on the challenges of transportation planning in the Atlanta metro area, analyzing the complex mobility politics of a southern urban center. A recent New York Times article highlights similar transportation issues plaguing rural communities in Texas. After buying rural routes from the Kerrville Bus Company in 2012, the discount travel company Megabus recently discontinued service to small towns in Texas' Southwest Area Regional Transit District, leaving much of the state without intercity transportation, mirroring challenges in providing adequate public transportation to rural communities across the US South and beyond.

In an update to Dan Carter's recent assessment of the political tumult in North Carolina government, the Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against North Carolina's restrictive voting law, following the precedent it set by challenging a similar voter identification bill in Texas. Both North Carolina and Texas passed voter identification laws following the Supreme Court's ruling to overturn key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As Steve Suits argued persuasively in his analysis of the resurgence of state sovereignty arguments, the long-term impact of this historic Supreme Court decision and subsequent voter identification bills remains to be seen.

Cover of This Day

Appalachian activist and poet Wendell Berry published a new poetry collection titled This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems, documenting and exploring Berry's habitual Sunday strolls on his farm in Kentucky. Earlier this year, Berry was awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, in recognition of his lifelong dedication to literary explorations of community and conservation. Contributing the forward to Erik Reece and James Krupa's recent publication The Embattled Wilderness, Berry reminds readers of the fragile balance between man, market, and the landscapes they inhabit.

Posted on October 7, 2013
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Christopher Lirette, Emory University and Lindsey Feldman, University of Arizona

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The old women began arriving in the domino room of the Chauvin Library, where my dad suggested I1 go film as part of my fieldwork. I propped myself up in the corner of the room, making small talk in Cajun French even though my "project" tries to avoid nativist ideologies about Louisiana culture.2 I saw that a completely out of place person had walked in. I immediately recognized her as one of my own3—a strange feeling when one is already "home" and is certain that this person is from elsewhere.

Selfie at dawn on a trawl boat, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Lindsey Feldman.
Selfie at dawn on a trawl boat, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Lindsey Feldman.

A week and a half later, Lindsey and I took selfies at sunrise on a trawl boat in Lake Boudreaux. Our projects in Louisiana were radically different: she was from Tucson, Arizona, working in Louisiana as part of a government-funded anthropology initiative that has been in Louisiana for fifteen years, her dissertation will be on prisoners. I work in straight-up theory, writing about how people perform their culture and where the fantasies that govern their actions come from.

Over the next month, we4 sort of fell into a rhythm of collaborative ethnography. We began interviewing people in tandem, exploring a place that was new and strange for Lindsey and more or less familiar and invisible for me. This emerging situation began to blur the lines between our two positions as researchers, a process that is apparent in our writing about this experience, a shift from the first-person singular to the first-person dual, from the subjective (and/or objective) voice to something else: a practice of collaborative perspective.

The choice to write as "we" is a decision to both duplicate vision and to unify it, to see something less bound by our disciplines and imaginations. It is also a way to alternatively navigate the space of the anthropological field, here being Chauvin, Louisiana, a small "census-designated place" in southern Louisiana. The following is a selection of fieldnotes from June 2013.5

We went trawling on Boudreaux Canal at sunset with a married couple who claimed that they didn't need to belong to a church, didn't need a priest or a pastor, because God blessed them with every good catch and there's no place of worship like the hull of a boat.

We drove past the dock where we eventually went on our first trawl-boat ethnography extravaganza, and there was the smell of it. Somebody had left some shrimp peelings in a garbage can to ferment in the heat of Louisiana June.

We sat at a long wooden dining table in Chauvin with Christopher's grandpa so Lindsey could conduct an interview, and he served us snowballs the right way—stuffed—with cherry flavoring and condensed milk.

Trawling at dawn, route. Satellite imagery courtesy of Google Earth.
Trawling at dawn, route. Satellite imagery courtesy of Google Earth.

We want trawling in Lake Boudreaux at sunrise. One shrimper was from the days when men were shrimpers. His voice was deep and gravely enough to be heard over the boat's motors. He had an apprentice who wore a rubber bracelet with a single word: "Work." We came full of coffee thermoses because it was four in the morning. We were nervous about being too late for the launch.

Work bracelet, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Lindsey Feldman.
Work bracelet, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Lindsey Feldman.

We snuck out of a Cajun dance hall—overstimulated with the visible spectacle of an over-conscious culture, overburdened with the responsibility of being responsible, needing something quiet involving still water, heavy air, and cigarettes.

We found the ideal situation in which to transcribe interviews and type observations was in a room half-floored, with frozen daiquiris, and an episode of True Blood on the horizon.

We created a brief and incomplete taxonomy of sheds:

  • abandoned storage units, collapsed by storms, sometimes housing the bones of small animals;
  • rabbit coops overgrown with blackberry vines, lichen, and other muds;
  • sheds frozen in time circa 1998, filled with tackleboxes, house siding, oxygen tanks, and gigantic spiders; and
  • work areas that are walled rooms beneath raised houses, filled with industrial machines lost to history, cable boxes and plugs, and regular tools (see footnote six).
Shed, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Lindsey Feldman.
Shed, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Lindsey Feldman.

We dealt with Christopher's dad's junk.6

We drove east to the next bayou over to find a place to play pool, to engage in a night resembling the mundane, and found ourselves in the back of a fast food restaurant drinking Coors Light from bottles, chalking cues where we were the only customers.

We ate crawfish among Southern Baptists at Christopher's friend's engagement party, discussing ethnographies of alternative sexual communities. Everyone had gone inside, except us and the mosquitos, which swarmed us no matter how many box fans we directed towards them. We jumped a rope fence, sort of. We itched for days. We were met with only some suspicion.

We went to see Great Gatsby at an extravagantly nice movie theater in New Orleans, a disruption in the flow of down-the-bayou aesthetic, and we remarked that being served parmesan flavored popcorn by waitstaff seemed appropriate while watching that particular film.

We sat in a mansion in Houma—one that is once a year a haunted house—and ate seeds from mason jars while talking politics with a local community organizer and his tenant, another grad student doing interviews.7

Perhaps the presence of researchers in Louisiana (or any location) should be looked at as an opportunity to practice seeing with others. Our fieldnotes are not fieldnotes in that archetypal sense, though they hold the ghost of the classical fieldnote. They're punctuated by experience rather than a strict chronology. They were written from memory—specifically, memory delimited by another person. These fieldnotes are conversations.

Ghost selfie, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Christopher Lirette.
Ghost selfie, Chauvin, Louisiana, June 2013. Photograph by Christopher Lirette.

They are conversations literally and figuratively. We talked to each other in the process of writing them, and we travelled together while doing research. And we spoke with people in Chauvin, and were part of their lives. We travelled with them too. The word conversation comes from conversatio, or "living with," which itself comes from con (with) and verso (to turn). These fieldnotes are not just observations but the relics of a time spent living together, with each other, with a place, with a people. We're exploring a method of research that might allow us as anthropologists to critically examine the people and places beyond our own imaginaries, to let them see us. It can mean letting people in on the cover up.

  • 1. The blog post starts with the voice of Christopher, since we were having a hard time beginning in a plural voice. Also, his voice has previously appeared on the Southern Spaces blog.
  • 2. For instance, the ideologies that promote a romantic Cajun nationalism where everyone speaks perfect Louisiana French and, I guess, traps nutria for a living.
  • 3. Twenty-something creative types, generally seen wearing thick-framed glasses.
  • 4. We being, for the rest of this post, Lindsey and Christopher.
  • 5. We conceive of the concept of "fieldnotes" as an archetypal form. Fieldnotes are, for anthropologists intent on following tradition, the symbols of professional identity and ethnographic authority. From the time of Bronislaw Malinowski, the father of modern anthropological fieldwork (i.e., getting out of the armchair and into the real world; see Malinowski's seminal work, Argonauts of the Western Pacific [London: George Routledge and Sons, 1932]), fieldnotes have become material markers of doing ethnography. Fieldnotes are made up of daily logs, filled with short conversations or encounters, and some proto-analysis of what was seen. Fieldnotes are also the site of thick description, which is the act of writing down, through a hyper-awareness of the place the researcher is temporarily occupying, the seemingly minute details of everyday life. This is important because, as Clifford Geertz—the first to practice and name thick descriptionexplains, we may not notice the difference between a wink or a twitch without the context that surrounds it. See Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 6.
  • 6. Actually, by junk we mean a more or less complete material history of labor, culture, and religion in Chauvin in the "long" twentieth century. He began with a family tree project that quickly became a collection of family photos, which began to amass heirlooms, furniture, machinery, and local publications dating back to the 1860s and encompassing much more than his own genealogy.
  • 7. Apparently, 2013 will be remembered as "the year grad students descended upon south Louisiana to work their ethnographies."
Posted on August 6, 2013
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Christopher Lirette, Emory University

in

The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.

  • The Equality of Opportunity project, a research initiative led by four economists from Harvard and Berkeley, released a working paper detailing the variation in income-mobility across the US States's "commuting zones." Unsurprisingly, parts of the US South did not make a good showing in terms of upward mobility. The study proposes that a lack of upward mobility is correlated to the presence commuter zones that have sprawling neighborhoods segregated by race and income, lower quality K–12 education, and a higher proportion of single-parent families. If you live in Atlanta, where Southern Spaces is based, then these descriptions are probably feeling familiar. Research agrees: Atlanta, which ranked the fifth worst of the one hundred largest commuter zones in the study (worst here meaning the least likely for children born to low-income families to ever rise out of poverty), was used by The New York Times and Atlanta Magazine to illustrate these correlations. Nevertheless, this study only identified elements correlated to a lack of upward mobility without regard for causation. So if you'd like to know why a sprawling metropole ranks so low while other such commuter zones (such as Houston) rank higher, you might want to consider using this project's data to launch a study of your own.
  • Following up on Shelby County v. Holder, the case that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, the US Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration set in process actions that would reinstate the voting law preclearance in Texas, bringing a case to a federal court in Texas that would invoke Section 3(c) of the VRA, a section that gives the federal government authority to add districts to the preclearance list if there is substantial evidence of discriminatory voting practices. Using Section 3(c) would give the federal government full rights to enforce Section 5, the part of the VRA that actually calls for preclearance but is now moot due to the Supreme Court overruling Section 4(b), the provision that populated the list of jurisdictions that required preclearance. If Holder's strategy succeeds in Texas, the reinstatement of blocked voting laws in states with a history of racial discrimination might be short-lived.
  • Though sodomy laws were declared unconstitutional in 2003 by the Supreme Court, an East Baton Rouge Sheriff's department has busted upwards of twelve men since 2011 with Louisiana's outdated sodomy law. According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the department sent male undercover officers to cruise for men in Manchac park, wired for surveillance. After engaging in flirty banter with a target, the undercover agent would suggest they take the conversation to his apartment for "some drinks and some fun." The agent would then suggest they practice safe sex using condoms, before arresting the unsuspecting target. The charge? Attempting a crime against nature. The Sheriff's department offered an explanation on Facebook: "To our knowledge, the Sheriff's office was never contacted or told that the law was not enforceable or prosecutable." None of the last twelve case actually made it to court, since District Attorney Hillar Moore III found no evidence of any crimes committed. Louisiana is not alone in having anti-sodomy laws still on the books: it is "illegal" to engage in oral or anal sex in fourteen states and Michigan was caught doing special "sting" operations targeting gay men in 2011.
  • In other sodomy news, Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has launched a campaign to bring back Virginia's anti-sodomy law.1 He argues that without an anti-sodomy law (here defined again as oral or anal sex) prosecutors have no way to convict sexual predators who would target children, despite the cornucopia of both state and federal laws that are still in effect.2 In 2009, Cuccinelli argued, "homosexual acts are . . . intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country, it's appropriate to have policies that reflect that." Though the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in 2003, they remain in the Virginia Code. A federal appeals court specifically struck down this statute this March in the course of a case where an adult male solicited oral sex from a seventeen year old on the basis that the prosecution used the crimes against nature statue upon which to base its case.
  • 1. The first proposed law on sodomy in the newly formed United States of America was introduced by a committiee including none other than Thomas Jefferson. This revision of the contemporary Virginia law carried a penalty of castration for men and "cutting thro' the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least" for women for committing rape, polygamy, or sodomy. This proposal, which included revisions for several other crimes, was rejected, retaining the death penalty in case of sodomy.
  • 2. 18.2-48(ii)(iii), 13.2-61, 13.2-63, 18.2-67.3, 18.2-67.4, 18.2-370, and 18.2-374 (respectively Abduction for Immoral Purpose, Rape, Carnal Knowledge of Minor where the perpetrator is more than five years older than the victim, Aggravated Sexual Battery or Sexual Contact with the victim being under thirteen, Sexual battery where the perpetrator is over eighteen but the victim is under six, Taking Indecent Liberties with a Minor, and Child Pornography).
Posted on August 1, 2013
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Sarah Melton, Emory University

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Advertisement announcing reward for runaway slave, Wilmington Advertiser, May 24, 1839. Courtesy of the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database.
Advertisement announcing reward for runaway slave, Wilmington Advertiser, May 24, 1839. Courtesy of the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) have launched the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements project, a database of all known runaway slave ads in North Carolina newspapers between 1751 and 1840. With its comprehensive focus, the project is a useful resource for scholars and students interested in the history of slavery and resistance. In addition to scanned advertisements, the database includes transcripts and rich metadata for easy querying of the approximately 2400 ads. Additonally, project staff have provided some brief historical context for researchers. Samantha Winer, a digitization and transcription assistant, writes that this project offers, "insight not only into conditions and lifestyles experienced by the slaves but also into the plantation economy."1

Advertisement for a runaway slave, North Carolina Gazette, May 5, 1775. Courtesy of the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database.
Advertisement for a runaway slave, North Carolina Gazette, May 5, 1775. Courtesy of the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database.

While the structure of most ads is uniform, some offer deeper insight into the global system of slavery. This 1775 ad from Wilmington, for example, details the escape of a slave named Quamino with two indentured servants. In addition to the typical physical description ("about 30 Years of Age, has a Scar above his right Eye . . ."), the slaveholder has noted that Quamino is "marked with his Country Marks," or patterns of facial scarification that served as markers of ethnicity and identification.2 Clicking through the hyperlinked term "country marks" reveals that the phrase is in circulation in the eighteenth century, but its last appearance is in 1807a year before the United States prohibited the importation of slaves. This shift in the visuality of slavery might be of interest to scholars who want to study the changing nature of the US slave economy.

Screenshot from North Carolina Runaway Slave database.
Screenshot from North Carolina Runaway Slave database.

This database is one of the latest additions to digital resources about runaway slaves. While most databases do not yet provide features like transcripts, there are a number of useful tools available for researchers and students. UNCG has created the Digital Library on American Slavery, a database of nearly 3,000 legislative petitions, 14,500 county court petitions, as well as personal documents like wills and bills of sale. Professor Thomas Costa at the University of Virgina has compiled runaway slave advertisements from 18th-century Virginia newspapers. One of the most comprehensive sources of information about runaway slaves and their journeys comes from the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture. Their Runaway Journeys project contains maps, images, documents, and lesson plans. This comprehensive resource covers the history of slavery, routes of runaway slaves, the Civil War, and its aftermath. The North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements project's comprehensive coverage, rich metadata, and searchable transcripts make the database a highly useful contribution to these existing tools.

  • 1. Samantha Winer, "A brief history of slavery in North Carolina," North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements, 1751–1840, http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/history/collection/RAS.
  • 2. Of course, physical markings cannot necessarily be correlated with ethnicity or geographic origin. As Michael Gomez notes in Exhanging Our Country Marks (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1998), it is notoriously difficult to track the geographical origins of enslaved peoples, as owners would often ascribe places of birth that are difficult to verify.