Douglass Day Transcribe-a-thon, Feb. 14

Douglass Day Transcribe-a-thon, Feb. 14

Jan. 23, 2023

Join us in celebrating Black history, research and archives

Frederick Douglass, (1818-1895) was an American abolitionist, social reformer, orator, writer, and statesman. Because he was born into bondage and never knew his birth date, Douglass chose to recognize it on February 14. Help us celebrate Douglass' birthday, also known as Douglass Day, an annual nation-wide transcribe-a-thon and a collective action for Black history. Thousands of participants come together at more than one hundred simultaneous events around the world to transcribe materials of Black scholars and thinkers.

This type of activity is often called "crowdsourcing," which is the collecting services, ideas, or content through the contributions of a large group of people. Because multiple people read and transcribe the same documents, the team can assemble the best version of that document for future/archival use. 

This event is coordinated by the Penn State Center for Black Digital Research and the University of Arizona Libraries.

Each year, a different historical figure is chosen, whose material will be transcribed, and this year it is Mary Ann Shadd Cary. Shadd Cary was the first Black woman publisher in North America, the first woman publisher in Canada, and the second Black woman to attend law school in the U.S. before becoming involved in the women's suffrage movement and advocating for the 14th and 15th Constitutional Amendments. 

Key event details

  • Stop by CATalyst Studios (Learning Studios B252-B254) in the Main Library anytime between 10am and 12pm.
  • Bring your laptop or device for transcribing.
  • No experience needed.
  • Time commitment is 15-20 minutes, but you are welcome to stay longer.
  • Contact: Heather Froehlich, Assistant Specialist, Digital Scholarship:

At the event

  • Everyone will need to set up a free account on Zooniverse. You can do this ahead of time or at the event.
  • We'll provide brief training before you start; there are also online tutorials.
  • Event will be livestreamed to connect us to other locations around the world.
  • All sorts of documents (from letters and diaries to certificates and postcards) will be available.
  • It’s a birthday party—so don't forget to grab a cupcake when you’re done. 

Questions about the material

  • What if I don’t feel comfortable reading old handwriting? Try working in pairs. There will also be typed documents available.
  • What if I don’t like the page/material I get? Hit "refresh" on your screen for different material.
  • View sample transcription projects at:

Who started the Douglass Day event?

Douglass Day is made possible by many partners and supporters including the Center for Black Digital Research at Penn State, the Colored Conventions Project, the Anna Julia Cooper Digital Project, the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, the Princeton University Center for Digital Humanities, the PSU Libraries, the PSU Center for Humanities and Information, and the PSU College of Liberal Arts, the American Studies Association for a Community Partnership Grant, Zooniverse, and By The People at the Library of Congress. About the national planning team