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Moorland-Spingarn Research Center to Lead Nationwide Transcribe-a-thon of Anna Julia Cooper Artifacts on Frederick “Douglass Day”

Moorland-Spingarn Researchers

WASHINGTON – Today, Howard University faculty, students and staff of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center will join people across the country and around the world to celebrate Douglass Day. In honor of the chosen birthday of Frederick Douglass, members of the public, including teachers and students, are invited to join an online crowdsourcing project that will preserve and create African American history. The transcribe-a-thon takes place from noon – 3 p.m. and will be live-streamed by DouglassDay.org on their YouTube channel.

“We collaborated on the transcribe-a-thon because it is a great way to engage the wider community and it will help improve access to Anna Julia Cooper's papers on Digital Howard. As a result of the project, handwritten documents will now be searchable,” says Lopez Matthews, Ph.D., manager of the Digital Production Center at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. He will be leading the effort for Howard University.

“As a leading voice in the abolition of slavery and a pivotal figure in the founding and development of Howard University, Frederick Douglass is someone that is dear to our heart,” says Matthews.

The headquarters for the event will be Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center where the Anna Julia Cooper Collection is held. More than 50 Howard University participants have registered to offer their time to help bring history to digital life. This effort is in partnership with nearly 1,000 people at 35 locations across North America and Europe. 

“As one of the leading Black feminist scholars of the 20th century, the work and legacy of Anna Julia Cooper needs to be more well known. Any project that seeks to increase the knowledge of her work is always welcome,” said Matthews.

This year, Douglass Day will feature a new crowdsourcing project that focuses on Anna Julia Cooper (1858 – 1964), a visionary Black feminist, teacher, leader, and intellectual. The project will be available online starting February 14. The 2020 edition of Douglass Day is a partnership between numerous universities, research groups, and public-school districts. 

“It shows that people do care about supporting humanities project,” says Matthews.

Partners include: 

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

Presentations will be shared by local schools and organizations in Washington, D.C., including Dunbar High School, the Xi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Soul Sistas musical group. 

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

Website: Douglass Day

Livestream: Douglass Day on YouTube Live

Twitter:  @DouglassDayorg + @CCP_org



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(Photo: Howard University students, Lopez Matthews, Ph.D., manager of the Digital Production Center at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, and members of the Anna Julia Cooper Digital Project staff prep for the 2020 Douglass Day transcribe-a-thon of Anna Julia Cooper artifacts.)

Why We Are Celebrating Douglass Day?

Although Frederick Douglass (1818 to 1895) often towers above other Black figures of the 19th century, he spent his life deeply invested in public activism. For half a century he was involved as an editor and activist in organizing for African American and women’s rights. Celebrating his extraordinary life teaches us to remember him not only as an exceptional individual but as someone who was involved, from 1843 to 1883, in the Black-led Colored Conventions movement alongside many other campaigns for 19th-century justice. Proclaiming “Right Is of No Sex, Truth is of No Color” from the masthead of his newspaper, he also stood strongly for Black women to be included in Black and women’s institutions and organizations as equal partners. Rather than celebrating Douglass as a singular figure, we commemorate this birthday by inviting many people to help create new digital resources for African American history. 

What Is Douglass Day?

After the passing of Frederick Douglass in 1895, Black communities across the U.S. gathered to celebrate Frederick Douglass’ birthday every year on February 14th. Together they gathered to remember and protest against racial violence and attacks on their civil rights. Douglas Day may have been one of the original inspirations for Black History Month, shaped by Mary Church Terrell and Carter G. Woodson. In 2017, the Colored Conventions Project revived Douglass Day on his chosen birthday as a day of collective action and radical love for preserving Black history. Learn more about Douglass Day on this page. 

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 Ph.D. 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 more about Cooper on this page

The Anna Julia Cooper Collection is held by the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) at Howard University. The MSRC is one of the world's largest and most comprehensive repositories for the documentation of the history and culture of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and other parts of the world. As one of Howard University's major research facilities, the MSRC collects, preserves, and makes available for research a wide range of resources chronicling the Black experience. These valuable resources are preserved and available to scholars, researchers, and the general public. For more info, visit http://library.howard.edu/MSRC


About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 70 Fulbright Scholars. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu


Media Contact: Imani Pope-Johns, Imani.popejohns@howard.edu