Research Projects

Freedom on the Move

Freedom on the MoveThe Ethel & Herman L. Midlo Center at the University of New Orleans has joined an exciting digital humanities project with colleagues at Cornell University and the University of Alabama called Freedom on the Move, a collaborative database of runaway slave advertisements for all of North America.

The efforts of enslaved people to escape spans the entire history of North American slavery. From the colonial period through the Civil War, enslavers posted “runaway ads” to try to locate these fugitives. Such ads provide significant quantities of individual and collective information about the economic, demographic, social, and cultural history of slavery, but they have never been systematically collected. Freedom on the Move will compile all North American slave runaway ads and make them available for statistical, geographical, textual, and other forms of analysis. Some elements of the data collection will be crowd sourced, engendering a public sense of co-participation in the process of recording history, and producing a living pedagogical tool for instructors at all levels, in multiple disciplines.

Freedom on the MoveUnder the direction of Dr. Mary Niall Mitchell, Ethel & Herman L. Midlo Chair in New Orleans Studies, UNO students will be collecting and cataloging advertisements from Louisiana newspapers. Louisiana was one of the most important states in the Deep South because of the port city of New Orleans. The collection of advertisements from New Orleans and the region promises to expand our knowledge of antebellum slavery, including population movements, African American culture, ethnicity, linguistics, material culture, urban slavery, the interstate and transatlantic slave trades, the spread of cotton and sugar cultivation, and family formation and dislocation.

More information on the Freedom on the Move

 

Orleans Parish School Board Project

Dr Kennedy with school boardDr. Kennedy (center) with school board

Dr. Al Kennedy, Midlo Associate, supervises a long-term project of the Midlo Center whose goal is to create a practical survey (or index) of material within the Orleans Parish School Board Collection housed at the University of New Orleans. This mammoth collection, central to the history of education and race relations in the region, had been fairly inaccessible to researchers hindered by the extreme difficulty of locating information among the vast materials. With creation of an index to the school board minutes, and the placing of the index on the web, a window into the collection is now accessible to students, faculty, researchers, and policymakers, thereby ensuring that this priceless collection is utilized.

School board recordsSchool board records

Three decades ago, Dr. Kennedy helped convince the school board to preserve its history and make it available to scholars. Today, the Orleans Parish School Board Collection documents 170 years of public education in New Orleans. The collection, exceeding 1,600 linear feet--or more than the length of five football fields—includes minutes of meetings beginning in 1841; rare photographs of students, teachers, and school buildings from the late 1800s; curriculum guides that span more than a century; and annual reports, directories, school profiles, budget documents, and other sources of information. The research team of Dr. Kennedy and history students has found no similar collection of this size and breadth in the nation.

Dr. Al KennedyDr. Al Kennedy

Working with the staff of the Louisiana and Special Collections Department at the Earl K. Long Library, where the Orleans Parish School Board Collection (MSS 147) is housed, the project staff of Dr. Kennedy and history students has focused on the handwritten journals containing the non-indexed minutes of school board meetings dating back to the 1840s. The project team's meticulous efforts have resulted in a body of work that will enable researchers to easily search for names and topics related to education and myriad other issues such as religion in the schools, teacher salaries, new construction, health policies, hiring policies, gender-related, race and ethnic-related issues, textbooks, and more. Students of education, history, urban studies, sociology, and related disciplines have already discovered rewarding avenues for research within the pages of the school board records.