Mapping “Information Wanted”; African -American Migrations During the Post Civil War Period

The Christian Recorder is the weekly periodical of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was one of the most popular periodicals read by African American’s during the nineteenth century, and had a national readership. The periodical was published in Philadelphia, but contributing correspondents were located as far west as San Francisco, as far north as Canada, and as far south as Texas. There were nearly 500 subscribers, yet readership was much more significant as many of the subscribers were churches and other organization’s that allowed for sharing and mass readership of the periodical. Through this periodical, the church was able to disperse a distinct African-American culture, centered in Philadelphia, across the nation.

 

Near the conclusion of the civil war, the periodical published “Information Wanted” ads. Advertisers would post these ads in an attempt to find family and friends they were separated from one another due to slavery. Each ad usually had some standard information; the name of the missing person (searchee), where the searchee was from, where the searchee was last seen (City, County, State), the advertisers name, the advertisers relationship to the searchee, and the advertisers location (city, county, state). Our summer 2014 Digital History course complied data from each individual ad that was published between 1864-1869, and recorded the data into a shared excel spreadsheet that was to be used by each student to  create an individual digital project.

 

As the data we have collected exists in the form of a spreadsheet, its difficult to imagine the data as representing actual people searching for lost friends and family. Thus, while looking for a potential digital project, I wanted to find something that would allow the advertisers and the searchee’s to be represented physically. I decided on making a series of maps that would allow for me to demonstrate where both the advertisers and searchee’s on a map, and also enable broader conclusions to be drawn, by both myself and the reader, about the movement of African-Americans northward after the conclusion of the civil war.

 

Before making the maps, I first had select a mapping program that would fulfill the goals described above. Ideally, the mapping program would allow for the data to be displayed on a map that is georeferenced, allowing for the searchee’s and advertisers to be placed on the map that was in alignment with the locations listed in the data. A program that would allow for a georeferenced map from the time period under investigation, 1864-1869, would be even more ideal. Yet georeferenced maps, such as Google maps, don’t exist for this period under investigation. The majority of the maps needed to input data are from the current day, and therefore don’t align with maps from 1864-1869. Using a program that would allow for layering of maps from the period under investigation over georeferenced maps proved to be extremely time-consuming, and much to expansive for a project such as this. Rather, I opted just to present the data on a map provided by Google Fusion Tables which allows me to place the data collected onto current Google maps. This will still allow for the physical location of where the advertisers and searchee’s to be viewed on a physical map rather than as data. This also allows for me to create maps from the entire period under investigation rather than just one year, allowing for more conclusions about the data that’s been gathered by our course to be drawn. In order to make up for not being able to create maps using the geographical boundaries of the time period, I have included a map below from the civil war period that outlines the states where slavery was legal.

 

After selecting the mapping program I wanted to use, I then had to decide what data that collected from the “Information Wanted” ads that I wanted to use to build my maps.  As stated above, I planned to take data from each year for both searchee’s and advertisers. Since the advertisers have a concrete location where they can be contacted, selecting which data entry to use for the advertisers fairly straightforward. I decided to select the advertiser’s listed city, as it was the most common data column for placing the advertiser in a geographical location. For the searchee’s, I decided to use the city they were last seen in. As the searchee is missing, it’s difficult to place an exact location on where they were. Yet the last seen location can give a general idea of where the person being sought was last located, even if they were already separated from their family at this point. Cities were the most cited category and are much more accurate than just the state, so I opted to use the city to locate the missing searchee’s as well.

 

This method may leave some certain searchee’s and advertisers out, as they may not have listed a city and instead listed a state or county. But I feel, after having looked at the entire spreadsheet that is attached below, that choosing the city last seen and listed city for the advertiser is the most effective way to include as many of the individual advertisers and searchee’s as possible. In order to extract this data, I had to select copy the data from each row I intended to use into six separate spread sheets I created for each year, and then imported each spreadsheet separately into the Google Fusion Tables to create a map. I choose to use fixed markers instead of heat maps, as it allows for a better representation of individuals to be seen in each map.

 

Below is a map of Slave states that will be useful when looking at the maps that follow. Orange states were slave states, yellow states are free states.

 

1864

The first year of ads that our class compiled data for was small, in terms of the number of ads posted, in comparison to the other years we covered. The searchee’s, shown in the map below, were almost evenly listed in both southern and northern states. This shows that people in both northern and southern states had been separated from family and friends, yet its difficult to tell what this means without comparing this years ads to other years.

1864 Searchee map

1864 Searchee map

 

The advertisers from 1864 were all located in northern states and one was even located in the United Kingdom (map below). The biggest take from this year is the broad readership of The Christian Recorder. Not only were there readers throughout the United States, but also abroad.

1863 Adversities Map

1863 Adversities Map

1865

The year 1865 had a significantly higher amount of ads posted in The Christian Recorder. Ten of the seventeen cities where the searchee’s were last seen were located in slave or former slave states. The cluster of searchee’s last seen in Virginia represents the highest concentration of ads. As the ads numbers grew, so did the national scale, as the last seen locations now go as far south and west as Texas, and as far north as Minnesota.

 

1865 Searchee Map

1865 Searchee Map

Unlike the searchee’s, the advertisers were located in northern states that do not allow slavery by a large majority. A lot of the advertisers are located near large cities, trading hubs, or manufacturing centers, which appears to demonstrate the beginnings of the whats known as the Great Migration, that is African-Americans moving into urban centers in the north.

 

1865 Advertiser Map

1865 Advertiser Map

1866

The searchee map from 1866 holds true to the trend from 1865; a majority of the missing people were last known to be in cities in the southern or middle slave states. By this year slavery had been abolished across the re-united country, yet the many of the missing persons had been gone for quite some time, when slavery was still a legal institution in these areas.

1866 Searchee Map

1866 Searchee Map

 

The advertisers in 1866 have made a visible shift to northeast. While there are some new outliers to the west in Illinois, Oregon, California, and Arizona, there is a noticeable move away from the southeast.

 

1866 Advertiser Map

1866 Advertiser Map

1867

The searchee’s in 1867 are again mainly located in the southern states and former Border States by a fairly large majority. The overall numbers of searchee’s has gone down from 1866, but they still cover a large geographic area.

1867 Searchee Map

1867 Searchee Map

 

In 1867 the advertisers continue to move further north and east, concentrating in the area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio.

 

1867 Advertiser Map

1867 Advertiser Map

1868

In 1868, the trend of the majority of the missing persons last seen location being in the southern, former slave states, continues.

1868 Searchee Map

1868 Searchee Map

The advertiser map for 1868 can appear to be a little deceiving, as many of the dots are in the border state of Maryland. But when looking at the heat map, posted below, its much more clear where the majority of the ad’s were located, in the general area Philadelphia and New York, further reinforcing the trend of advertisers concentrating in free, northern states.

1868 Advertiser Map

1868 Advertiser Map

1868 Advertiser Heat Map

1868 Advertiser Heat Map

1869

The year 1869 had a small number of ads, and the searchee’s appear to be distributed in Northeast. This year appears to be more of an outlier due to the small number of ads.

1869 Searchee Map

1869 Searchee Map

The 1869 advertisers, like those perviously, are focused in the northeast, yet their isn’t a huge sample size to draw from.

1869 Advertiser Map

1869 Advertiser Map

 

Conclusions

There are several main conclusions that can be drawn from the maps that are presented above. First, and most important as it adds to the significance of this project, is the fact that The Christian Recorder truly had a national, and even international, readership. “Information Wanted” ads were posted from the United Kingdom, Canada, and as far west as California and Oregon. This shows that not only readers were located all over the United States, but the general population of African-Americans was also dispersed across nearly the entire country. The fact that people posted the ads in an attempt to find lost family members in far away geographic regions suggests that the periodical was widely read, and that advertisers truly believe they had a chance at finding missing family members. The readers of the periodical were participating in the constriction of a distinct African-American culture that was based in Philadelphia, but also had influences from across the United States.

 

The maps also seem to show the beginnings of what would be a much more popular trend, that is the migration of African-Americans from the southern states to the northeast where jobs were readily available and the lingering effects of slavery were less oppressive. The searchee’s were more often than not last seen in former slave states in the south. Yet as the war ended and the 1860’s progressed, advertisers continued to be concentrated further north and east, with Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan also showing growth (as these areas were burgeoning economic and manufacturing centers as the country expanded west). These advertisers were moving north, without their loved ones, in search of a better life. They were, however, still wanting to reconnect with their loved ones. These advertisers were able to escape the perils of slavery, and were, in the majority, living in free northern states. This trend continued to increase as the ads continued to be published.

 

This project, while tracing the movement of slaves northward, isn’t all-encompassing. Rather, this information was presented in a way that will provoke questions from the reader, and hopefully promote further research. Due to the short length of our course, it was not possible to investigate individual’s lives and draw conclusions based upon individual cases, while also creating maps, though that may be a topic ripe for future research, though filling in their personal lives to match the trends displayed in the maps may prove rewarding.

 

Below is attached the entire data spreadsheet from which I drew the data to create the maps above: July_2014_Christian_Recorder_Ads

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