North Carolina History Digital Textbook Project

Reading primary sources: Newspaper advertisements

By Kathryn Walbert


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Reading primary sources: Newspaper advertisements

Commentary and sidebar notes by Kathryn Walbert

Scanned detail of newspaper ads from the Carolina Watchman

(More about the photograph)

In antebellum North Carolina, newspapers printed classified advertisements written by slave holders searching for runaway slaves, as well as ads posted by those wishing to buy or sell slaves. Although most of these ads are no more than a few lines long, they can tell us a great deal about slavery and society in the antebellum era.

This interactive guide presents advertisements related to enslaved people from the January 7, 1837 edition of the Carolina Watchman, a Salisbury newspaper. A series of questions walks the reader through the process of historical inquiry, demonstrating how historians approach primary source documents and revealing a great deal about the prevailing attitudes of 19th-century North Carolina.

This edition is one in a series of guides on reading historical primary sources.