By Javier Rosario
Northeastern students, staff, and faculty came together on February 14 to celebrate Douglass Day. Named after the famed American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, this date sees thousands of people all around the world engage in collective action that promotes a radical love for Black history.
“In anything related to our people,” Douglass once said, “I am insensible to the boundaries.” In that spirit, organizers have taken to pursuing his dream by using digital tools that Douglass himself could not have been familiar with.
This year, the Digital Scholarship Group, the Women Writers Project, and the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks got together to organize a local transcription session for the archival papers of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, a 19th century Canadian-American Black activist. 2023 marks the 200th anniversary of Shadd’s birth, and participants celebrated this by contributing to a new project that can archive documents from her extensive career as a journalist, lawyer, and teacher. The transcription was done on the Transcribe Shadd Cary site on Zooniverse.
2023 marks the seventh year that Northeastern has participated in the revived celebrations of Douglass Day, first launched by the Colored Conventions Project (CCP) in 2017. Inspired by the original Colored Conventions of the 19th century, the CCP is a scholarly and community research project that uses innovative technologies and inclusive partnerships to locate, transcribe, and archive a history that is nearly forgotten.
Northeastern’s event served as only one small part of a bigger community project that hopes to share the life and legacy of Shadd as well as other historical Black figures. Even now, interested parties can join in these efforts. Zooniverse is free and designed for ease-of-use, including tutorials for any new transcribers. Visit the Transcribe Shadd Cary page to get started!
Douglass Day was made possible by a large number of partners and supporters. They include: 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.