Join us for our Juneteenth “Hack-a-Thon” on June 28th from 12 – 2pm

Participants will transcribe and digitize runaway slave ads from North American slavery

Ad for a runaway slave placed by Thomas Jefferson

On Friday June 28, 2019 from 12 – 2 p.m., the New Jersey State Library, in partnership with Freedom on the Move, will host a Hack-a-Thon in honor of Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. During the Hack-a-Thon, participants will assist with transcribing and digitizing “runaway ads” posted by enslavers trying to locate fugitives during North American slavery. The digitized ads will serve as an invaluable research aid and history resource for genealogists, scholars, students, and citizen historians who are researching their ancestry.

Freedom on the Move (FOTM) is an online project devoted to digitizing newspaper ads about fugitives from slavery in North America. Organizers are enlisting the help of the public to create a database for tens of thousands of advertisements placed by enslavers who wanted to recapture self-liberating Africans and African-Americans. The database also includes ads that were posted by jailers, describing people they had apprehended in search of the enslavers who claimed the fugitives as property.

The insights the ads provide are especially valuable because so little information about enslaved individuals has been preserved. The ads include details of individual lives – their personality, appearance, and life story. Taken collectively, the ads constitute a detailed, concise, and rare source of information about the experiences of enslaved people. The output of this crowdsourced project will be a growing database of the stories and experiences of thousands of individuals, and the places and people associated with them.

“We are excited to host our Juneteenth Hack-a-Thon, and proud to be a part of this process of transcribing and digitizing thousands of stories of resistance, that until now, have never before been accessible in one place,” said Regina Fitzpatrick, Genealogy Librarian at the New Jersey State Library. “By exploring the stories captured in the advertisements, we are able to establish a deeper connection to the period, through the lens of those seeking freedom.”

Participants in the State Library’s Juneteenth Hack-a-Thon will join forces to contribute transcriptions to this project. All are welcome to come and transcribe ads anytime during the event. Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops. The State Library will be providing limited computer equipment for the event. Registration is required for the event due to limited space and computer equipment. For more information and to register, visit:

About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.