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Transcribe-a-thon Honors Black History on Douglass Day 2020

Washington, D.C.

On Friday, February 14, 2020, hundreds of people will celebrate Douglass Day. The event marks the chosen birthday of Frederick Douglass by inviting members of the public, and especially teachers and students, to join an online crowdsourcing project. It’s a way to celebrate Black History Month with a digital twist! 

This year, Douglass day will feature a new crowdsourcing project. The project focuses on Anna Julia Cooper (1858 – 1964), a visionary Black feminist, teacher, leader, and intellectual. The project will be available online starting February 14th. No experience is required to help preserve and create African American history. 

The 2020 edition of Douglass Day is a partnership between a large number of universities, research groups, and public school districts. This celebration will be the fourth annual event.

Here at [NAME OF INSTITUTION], [NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS] have registered to offer their time to help us bring African American history to digital life. This gathering joins forces with more than 1500 people at forty-five locations (and counting) across North America & Europe.

For more information, please visit


  • Friday, February. 14, 2020
  • Main event: 12 – 3 PM (EST) 
  • Local times may vary.


  • Anna Julia Cooper Digital Project
  • Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University
  • Princeton University Center for Digital Humanities
  • Pennsylvania State University Libraries, Center for Humanities and Information, and College of Liberal Arts
  • The Colored Conventions Project


  • Jim Casey, Princeton University
  • Shirley Moody Turner, Pennsylvania State University

Who: High school students, college and university students, public library users, museum patrons, student groups, amateur historians and genealogists, librarians, archivists, scholars, teachers, activists, church goers, and other volunteers from Washington DC, Delaware, Penn State, across the United States, and around the world. 

What: An online and transnational celebration of Frederick Douglass’s birthday through a transcribe-a-thon of papers of Anna Julia Cooper held by the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. Live performances, singing, and birthday cake will be on hand at many locations.  

Where (participants): Hundreds of people from institutions, organizations, independent groups and as individuals will congregate simultaneously for this event. Select designated locations are open to media inquiries (contact the lead organizers for more details).

Why: In honor of Frederick Douglass, along with Anna Julia Cooper and other Black women activists of the past and present. #TranscribeBlackWomen.

How: Visit the locations where the simultaneous transcriptions are taking place, and follow the action online.

VISUALS: Official opening ceremony with university designates, individuals gathering, meeting each other, singing, celebrating (party / cake cutting), people transcribing (with Zooniverse), Anna Julia Cooper Read-A-Thon, short historical presentations (projected archival photographs and original documents), on-camera streeters and short scholar interviews.

Additional graphics & visuals are available on the Douglass Day website page for flyers & branding.


Contact for press inquiries & interviews
Jim Casey & Shirley Moody-Turner at


What is Douglass Day?

After Frederick Douglass passed away in 1895, African American communities gathered to celebrate his birthday every year on February 14th. These memorials offered a space for reflection on the past and the questions of today. Douglass Day was one of the origins of Black History Month. In 2017, the Colored Conventions Project revived these celebrations as an annual day for preserving Black history. This year, we will hold a transcribe-a-thon and read-a-thon focused on the papers of Anna Julia Cooper. All are invited! Learn more about the history of Douglass Day.

Who was Anna Julia Cooper?

Anna Julia Cooper (1858 – 1964) was a visionary Black feminist leader, educator, intellectual, and activist. Born into slavery in 1858, she earned a PhD from University of Paris-Sorbonne. She wrote a foundational text of Black feminist thought, A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South. Cooper taught us that Black women should be at the center of the battle for civil rights. Learn lots more about Cooper.

What is a transcribe-a-thon?

During these events, we can help enhance digitized archives. We’ll have food, music, and a fun time! Our main activity will be transcribing the words in all sorts of documents (from letters and diaries to certificates and postcards). Don’t feel comfortable reading old handwriting? Try working in pairs. There’s also lots of typewritten documents that are easier to read. And we have lots of tutorials, guides, and more in the Organizer’s Kit. Let’s dive in!

What is a read-a-thon?

We will provide a few short readings of works by Anna Julia Cooper. They will be short enough to read during the event. Then, we have a set of discussion questions in our guide to hosting reading groups. We are also preparing a Teacher’s Guide for Douglass Day with lesson plans & resources (coming soon). Info about both formats will be posted soon in our Organizer’s Kit. Or skip straight to the guide for reading groups.

Quick Facts about Douglass Day

  • Douglass Day celebrations began around the turn of the 20th century and helped inspire Black History Month
  • This year’s event will be the fourth annual celebration of Douglass Day. A group at the University of Delaware helped revive Douglass Day in 2017. 
  • Douglass Day helps create new digital resources for African American history each year. All materials created are made free & open to all. 
  • Participation totals: 
    • Estimated totals: 4,950 people in 223 locations
    • 2017: 250 people in 9 locations
    • 2018 – 1600 people in 130 locations
    • 2019 – 300 people in 9 locations
    • 2020 – 2800 people in 75 locations

Visuals & Graphics for Douglass Day Coverage

Available on

Sites & Scenes

Celebrations of Douglass Day will include performances.