Distant reading will make a world of textual evidence available in new and engaging ways for students of slavery. Looking for words and phrase patterns that reoccur in the existing recored of runaway slave advertisements using data mining techniques will also introduce students to the digital humanities. Slaveholders placed detailed advertisements in colonial era and nineteenth-century newspapers seeking the return of enslaved men and women who chose to run away from bondage. These advertisements offer a window into the world of slavery that can be enhanced using distant reading techniques and methods.
Multiple websites are dedicated to digitizing runaway slave advertisements and can form a base of data for a distant reading project. One such site, the Geography of Slavery in Virginia, pulls together advertisements from Virginia newspapers. Another deals with North Carolina Slave Advertisements from 1751 to 1840.
Distant reading will help to determine common categories and features of slavery.