Runaway Slave Ads as Slave Narratives

Slave narratives are defined as the “dictated and written representations of the life experiences of enslaved peoples” (Davis & Gates, The Slave’s Narrative). Many of the runaway slave ads include specific and intriguing details about the varied lives of the enslaved that could be construed as offering a kind of narrative of their lives under enslavement.

Physical Descriptions

Many of the slave ads record vivid details about the physical descriptions of the runaways. This could include details about their height, weight, striking features, or information about their scars, markings, physical disabilities and/or missing limbs.

“stout, tall, black man”

Feb. 14, 1785

“about five feet high, has a flat large nose marked with the small pox, commonly wears an earring.”

May 17, 1783

Intriguing Details about Clothing

For more information on Slave Narratives in the Caribbean, check out this exhibit on Embdedded Slave Narratives from our partner site, the Early Caribbean Digital Archive

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