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Transcribing the Colored Conventions

This project will focus on transcribing records from political meetings held by African Americans during the 1800s called “Colored Conventions.” The transcribe-a-thons will include a live broadcast from the National Douglass Day Organization and will feature speakers, performances, and more. The Colored Conventions were historic state and national political meetings held by Black men and women between 1830 and 1900.

At the conventions, delegates from Black communities across North America met to debate their larger fight for freedom, civil rights, and justice. Many of their meetings touched on topics that still resonate today, including voting rights, civil rights, fair access to education, and much more. It was the longest campaign for Black civil rights before the founding of the NAACP and the Civil Rights Movement.

Leaders at the conventions include many of the most famous names from this era. Frederick Douglass attended the conventions for four decades (1843-1883) alongside nearly all of the era’s most influential writers, organizers, church leaders, newspaper editors, teachers, and entrepreneurs. The minutes and proceedings from these conventions also tell us about tens of thousands more whose names went unremembered.

Anyone can help transcribe these historical records. No experience is needed, and tutorials and instructions will be provided.

Douglass Day partners with the Colored Conventions Project

This history is presented by the Colored Conventions Project (CCP), a scholarly community and research project based at The Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Black Digital Research.

Rediscovering Women’s Leadership in the Conventions

Women played important roles at the Colored Conventions, yet the documentary record largely erases their contributions. Very few of the records mention women’s roles in creating, hosting, and organizing the conventions. Yet the work of scholars is beginning to show that Black women helped to drive this movement for decades as intellectuals, writers, and community organizers. This crowdsourcing project will seek to fix that imbalance by challenging participants on Douglass Day 2022 to find the needles in the haystack.