Douglass Day 2021

You’re invited to…

A Birthday Party for Frederick Douglass

Douglass Day 2021


Born enslaved, Frederick Douglass emancipated himself at the age twenty and quickly became one of the preeminent intellectuals and activists of the nineteenth century. Although he never knew his birthdate, he chose to celebrate every year on February 14th.

Together with libraries and digital scholarship centers around the country, we celebrate this date as a moment for creating and preserving Black history together.

This year, Cornell University Library celebrates with two events: a panel discussion about reading Douglass in 2021, with distinguished Cornell faculty, and a transcribe-a-thon of the papers of Mary Church Terrell.

Poster with image of Mary Church Terrell and details about Douglass Day events

Kickoff Panel Discussion

Thursday, February 11, 4:30-5:30pm

Frederick Douglass in 2021: Lessons for our Current Moment

What can Douglass’ long career as abolitionist, writer, and transnational freedom dreamer teach us about our current moment and the Movement for Black Lives? What lessons does his analysis of U.S. Reconstruction’s potential and its failures offer as we continue to reckon with white supremacy, settler colonialism, and systemic inequality on a global level? Join us as we kick off Cornell University’s Douglass Day 2021 celebrations with a roundtable discussion of Frederick Douglass’s life and legacy featuring distinguished Cornell faculty.


Carole Boyce Davies, Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Africana Studies and Literatures in English
Robert Harris, Professor Emeritus, Africana Studies
Ishion Hutchinson, Associate Professor, Director of Creative Writing Program
Shirley Samuels, Professor of English
Margaret Washington, Marie Underhill Noll Professor of American History
Moderator: Derrick R. Spires, Associate Professor of Literatures in English


National Transcribe-a-thon

Friday, February 12, 12-2pm
Drop in anytime.

In 2021, together with other groups around the country, we will transcribe the papers of Mary Church Terrell, a foundational Black activist, educator, thinker, and writer. She helped to create Douglass Day back in 1895. Soon after, she also helped found the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the NAACP. Come explore her fascinating papers with us!

Transcriptions of historical documents like these make them available for digital searching, analysis, and future research. Help share Terrell’s legacies with future generations.

No experience needed. Drop in at the Zoom meeting, choose a letter or diary entry of Mary Church Terrell’s to transcribe, and enjoy exploration, music, and camaraderie with others from Cornell and Ithaca.

Douglass Day 2021 is presented by:
Center for Black Digital Research, Penn State
By the People, Library of Congress
Penn State University Libraries and the College of Liberal Arts

Sponsored locally by:
Cornell University Library Digital CoLab
Cornell University Library Rare and Distinctive (RAD) Collections

Questions? Contact Eliza Bettinger (ecb4)