Freedom on the Move, a digital database with information on people who escaped or attempted to escape enslavement in the United States, has been awarded the 2023 Digital Humanities Award from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
University of New Orleans history professor Mary Niall Mitchell is a lead historian for the digital database and director of the Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies at UNO.
The database, which launched a website in 2019, is the largest digital collection of newspaper advertisements for people escaping from North American slavery. Culled from 18th- and 19th-century U.S. newspapers, the ads, placed by enslavers, are used to document the lives of people escaping bondage.
The Best in Digital Humanities award recognizes publicly accessible projects, including websites, virtual exhibitions, podcasts and other born-digital initiatives, that bring new insights to or significantly improve the public’s understanding of the state, its history and its culture.
UNO is one of five partner universities working on the database project. Mitchell said she believes the outreach work historians did last year with K-12 educators using FOTM in the classroom and the ever-growing collection of ads for freedom seekers in Louisiana contributed to the project earning the award.
The Freedom on the Move initiative has digitized more than 32,000 ads placed by enslavers seeking to locate enslaved fugitives or jailers hoping to recover reward bounties for men and women captured while fleeing enslavement. The publicly accessible database, which includes teacher resources and some 10,000 ads related to Louisiana, is a rich source of information on the history of slavery and resistance.
In addition to the Best in Digital Humanities award, the LEH announced eight Humanities Awards recipients, recognizing documentary filmmakers and photographers, literacy and language advocates, historians and more.
The awardees will be highlighted in the summer issue of 64 Parishes magazine, published by the LEH, and they will be recognized during the organization’s annual Bright Lights Awards ceremony, returning in-person for the first time in three years on May 11.