Transcribe Anti-Slavery Letters to Help Historians

Transcribe Anti-Slavery Letters to Help Historians
Contributor: Beth Skwarecki

The Boston Public Library has a collection of letters that were sent to and from anti-slavery activists in the 19th century. The only problem: They’re handwritten, which makes them hard to read and impossible to search. This is where you come in.

The library is looking for volunteers to help transcribe the letters in its Anti-Slavery Manuscripts project. When you sign in, you’ll see a letter, with lines of script underlined (or, if you are the first to transcribe this document, you’ll underline them yourself). Click and you can either type what that line of the document seems to say, or you can agree with a previous volunteer’s transcription. With multiple people working on each document, you’re each checking each other’s work.

The library writes of the documents’ significance: “The extensive body of correspondence records interactions among leading abolitionists in the United States and Great Britain over a fifty year period, thus creating an archive that comprehensively documents the history of the 19th century anti-slavery movement in Boston as well as abroad through the end of the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery.”

According to the library’s note, some letter-writers also discuss the role of women in the abolitionist movement, which was controversial at the time, and some describe the resistance they met from people who did not want to abolish slavery. By helping to transcribe the letters, you can help these bits of history become more available to historians and readers.

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