Press Release & Media Advisory

Douglass Day 2023 Press Release


7th Annual Transcribe-a-thon Honors Black Women’s History on February 14, 2023

State College, PA & worldwide — Douglass Day is proud to announce a transcribe-a-thon in honor of the bicentennial birthday of Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893).

The transcribe-a-thon will bring together thousands of participants at more than one hundred simultaneous events around the world. Students, teachers, and community members will help to transcribe an unprecedented collection of digitized papers left by Mary Ann Shadd Cary, an iconic figure in Black women’s history. These papers have been digitized and made available through collaborations facilitated by the Center for Black Digital Research with the Archives of Ontario, Libraries and Archives Canada, and the Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. 

Few people in history have broken more barriers than Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893). She was an activist, journalist, teacher, intellectual, and lawyer. Shadd Cary was one of the earliest Black women to found and edit a newspaper, attend law school, and serve as a Civil War recruiter. She grew up in the strong Black communities of Delaware and Philadelphia before emigrating to Canada. After the US Civil War, she moved to Washington DC. Across all of these places, Shadd Cary worked endlessly to empower and educate Black people in the United States and Canada through her public writing and speaking, editing, suffrage activism, and community organizing. She was a fearless advocate for her causes. As she wrote in an 1849 letter to Frederick Douglass, “in anything relating to our people, I am insensible of boundaries.”

The Douglass Day transcribe-a-thon will be held on February 14, 2023 from 12-3 PM (Eastern) and will be streamed live on YouTube. The transcribing will be done on, a citizen science platform led by the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Ill. Douglass Day invites people from all backgrounds to join in this effort to make Shadd Cary’s papers more widely accessible and searchable. 

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Media Advisory & Background Info

What is Douglass Day? 

Douglass Day is an annual holiday celebrated on February 14th, the chosen birthday of Frederick Douglass. As Douglass never knew his actual birthdate, his family chose Valentine’s Day to commemorate his life. The holiday was established after Douglass’ passing in 1895, when influential activist Mary Church Terrell proposed a national holiday to honor his legacy. Douglass Day events were widespread in the early 20th century and served as inspiration for the creation of Black History Month. In 2017, a group at the University of Delaware revived the holiday as an annual event to preserve Black history through collective actions, such as creating new resources for teaching and learning about Black history. All are welcome to participate and learn more about the history of Douglass Day, both distant and recent, by visiting

What is a transcribe-a-thon? 

A transcribe-a-thon is an event in which a group of people work together to transcribe a collection of digitized historical materials. The primary goal of a transcribe-a-thon is to make the materials more easily accessible, but these events also serve to promote awareness of parts of Black history – and especially Black women’s history – that remain too-little-known. Transcribe-a-thons can take place at in-person events. Many people organize virtual gatherings. The experience of taking part in a transcribe-a-thon can transform us from consumers of history into knowledge producers–a collective action for saving and expanding Black history together! 

Where can I learn more about Mary Ann Shadd Cary? 

What can I expect to see at a Douglass Day event? 

Visuals may include; opening ceremony, individuals gathering, meeting each other, singing, celebrating (party / cake cutting), people transcribing, short historical presentations (projected archival photographs and original documents), and short interviews with historians and relevant experts. 

Where can I find more visuals & graphics? 

Additional visual materials are published on the Douglass Day website’s Graphics page.