Megan Jeffreys

Doctoral Candidate


My research has long aligned with issues of American slavery. My dissertation research for uses on the numerous groups involved, either directly or indirectly, in the escape of enslaved individuals. Illuminating their perspectives of the event, the individual(s), and slavery as a whole. This research works to understand the ripple effects surrounding the decision to escape, focusing on individual, familial, community, and national reactions. My dissertation pushes to understand these complex notions of enslavement and combines elements of a community study with the openness necessary to understand history as a series of entangled and inherently international events. My previous research has looked at children in enslavement, trickster tales as reflections of reality, and maritime escape. 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. If you're curious about this project, feel free to check it out at, or ask me about it. 

Research Focus

My dissertation explores the perspectives of groups and individuals involved in escaping enslavement in Antebellum Virginia. Enslavers, escapees, abolitionists, politicians, slave patrollers, and members of the white and Black communities 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 Virginia. 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 American Slavery." In Atrocity in Children's Literature, Victory Nesfield and Philip Smith, editors. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. (Forthcoming).