Megan Jeffreys

Doctoral Candidate


I am a PhD candidate in history, and I have spent my entire graduate journey researching various aspects of American slavery. My current research focuses on the numerous groups and individuals involved, either directly or indirectly, in the escape of enslaved individuals. This research works to understand the ripple effects surrounding the decision to escape, focusing on individual, familial, community, and national reactions. My dissertation works to understand these complex notions of enslavement and combines elements of a community study with an understanding of entangled histories to understand history as a series of intertwined and inherently international events. Previously, I have researched children in enslavement, trickster tales as reflections of reality, and maritime escape, all of which continue to influence my work. In all of these connected projects, I have greatly relied on my work with the Freedom on the Move project (FOTM), which is housed at CISER here at Cornell. Feel free to check out this amazing, immersive database at Currently, I am working with the Cornell in Washington program in Washington, D.C.

Advisor: Edward Baptist

Research Focus

My dissertation is a community study of the American city of Alexandria between 1820 and 1860. This study looks at the various groups and individuals present within the city and how they understood and interacted with enslavement and escape. Enslavers, escapees, abolitionists, politicians, slave patrollers, merchants, slave traders, and the free Black community all experienced and interacted with escape in different ways. This dissertation aims to shed light on these connections, illuminating the correlation between these perspectives and the role they all played in creating community and power in Antebellum Alexandria. This dissertation builds on the history of enslavement, providing both a community and national study of how escape transformed and defined relationships among individuals and groups. Escape was not a linear action. Rather, each escape acted as a drop in a pond, causing numerous ripple effects that impacted, both directly and indirectly, the lives of everyone in the surrounding community and the nation as a whole. 


  • "Children Are Our Past." Activist History Review (February 18, 2020).

  • "Freedom on the Move by Sea: Evidence of Maritime Escape Strategies in American Newspaper Runaway Slave Advertisements." In Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad, Timothy Walker, editor. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2021. 

  • "Freedom in Fiction: Trickster Tales and Enslavement in the United States." In Representing Childhood and Atrocity, Victoria Nesfield and Philip Smith, editors. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2022."