To celebrate Frederick Douglass’s birthday, Penn State will host an online “transcribe-a-thon” event this weekend to preserve the papers of an important Black woman activist.
Jim Casey is a Douglass Day co-director and an assistant professor of African American Studies at Penn State. He said Douglass Day has evolved in the five years since it began.
“Early sort of Douglass Day celebrations did things like collect funds to make Douglass’s house in D.C. a kind of national monument," Casey said.
Casey said this year Douglass Day will focus on transcribing the papers of Mary Church Terrell, who fought for Black civil rights and established the National Association of Colored Women.
“We have things like brochures from the school plays that she organized or flyers from marches that she organized for women's voting rights in the early 1920’s,” Casey said.
Denise Burgher is a Douglass Day organizer and a PhD student at the University of Delaware. She said more than 7,000 people have signed up to participate in this year’s virtual event.
“These documents, unless you have millions of dollars and a large staff, need to be transcribed in order for them to be accessible, searchable, etcetera. So that actually requires crowdsourcing,” Burgher said.
In addition to transcribing, the event will feature speakers like Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and descendants of Mary Church Terrell.
There’s also a competition to bake the best birthday cake for Frederick Douglass.
Events start Friday at noon and run through the weekend.