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Jul 21, 2021

A Pilot Project Using Freedom on the Move Data

University of New Orleans history professor Mary Niall Mitchell is collaborating with New Orleans public school teachers, museum directors and other community leaders to develop a K-12 curriculum using Freedom on the Move’s (FOTM) database of advertisements seeking runaway enslaved people.

University of New Orleans history professor Mary Niall Mitchell is a lead historian for the digital database Freedom on the Move and director of the Midlo Center for New Orleans Study at UNO.

The digital database, which Mitchell is a lead historian, 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 goal of the public engagement history pilot program, according to FOTM historians, is to take learning “into the streets, to help students engage with the histories of enslaved people that can be tied to both the environment and the particular topography of the city of New Orleans and its environs.”

Following classroom instruction students will explore New Orleans and the region to visualize the social, spatial and cultural histories of enslaved people and then develop their own public-facing projects, including maps, visual art, spoken word, digital and video pieces.

FOTM received a nearly $150,000 grant in May from The National Historical Publications and Records Commission, an arm of The National Archives, to create a pilot program that could be replicated nationally.

With cost sharing from UNO and its partners, the pilot engagement program is a $300,000 project, said Mitchell, who is also director of the Midlo Center for New Orleans Study at UNO. The Midlo Center is administering the grant.

The pilot program is expected start in the fall of 2021 with professional development training.

The collaboration brings together historians, curriculum innovators, teachers, museum professionals and urban planners with the support of the Midlo Center, community spaces and artists.

Each of the groups will play a vital role in helping students engage with the advertisements in the FOTM databases and the stories of enslaved people that it contains.

You can read more in an announcement published in the University of New Orleans web site at: https://bit.ly/3zmS5lr.