Our Questions

Data Analysis Questions

  • What was the typical profile of a subscriber?
  • What was the typical profile of an advertised runaway slave?
  • Did people advertised run away in groups, and if so, what kinds of groups?
  • How long did an ad run, how often was it reprinted, and did rewards increase over time?
  • What techniques did runaways use to escape? How often did they succeed, or try again if they were captured?
  • Why did particular individuals run away, and where were they suspected to have gone? (How did slaveholders answer these questions, as opposed to the answers runaways would have given?)
  • When (in the year, or in all the years) were runaway ads most likely to appear?
  • How did subscribers describe or think about enslaved people advertised in the ads? As individuals or anonymous laborers? How do slaveholders react to runaways?
  • What systems or factors prevented successful escapes? What were runaways up against?
  • How long after an escape did slaveholders wait to advertise?
  • How often (and how widely) were ads reprinted?

With regard to all of these questions, we also have been wondering:

  1. What difference did the distinctive characteristics of Texas make for the answers of any of these questions? Did Texas depart from or conform to patterns like those shown in the Franklin and Schweninger book?
  2. How did the answers of any of these questions change over time?

Data Visualization Questions

  • Would it be possible to visualize, using the ads, the differences between the slaveholders’ “geography of containment” and the slaves’ “rival geography”?
  • What visualizations of our data would most effectively communicate what slavery meant or was like for the enslaved? Which visualizations might persuade even better (or in a different way) than a written historical narrative?
  • Which visualizations might allow us to better see answers to our analytical questions?
  • What would be the purpose of different visualizations of the data, ranging from numbers on a table, to a map, to images, to an interactive game?

Data Exploration Questions

  • Would it be possible to make the discovery of runaway ads more automated, using page images or OCR text of the newspaper pages?

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