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PSC 293 The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass: Transcription/Annotation Project

Frederick Douglass

Image Source: US National Archives

Transcription Project

For the Frederick Douglass Project, students will learn about transcription best practices.  Each student will transcribe one letter penned by Frederick Douglass (due by March 9).  Before you begin your own transcription, it helps to read through the letters that have already been transcribed to get a better sense of Douglass's handwriting.  The more you compare transcriptions to the handwritten documents, the easier it becomes to read his handwriting.

Students will then develop a robust annotation for their transcription, including:

  • citations to primary sources mentioned in the letter;
  • descriptions of key words, terms, or people mentioned in the letter;
  • an analysis of the significance of the historical period or things mention in the letter;
  • an analysis of how themes in the letter are connected to Douglass's politics and philosophy.

Annotation and analysis will require both primary and secondary research.

For an example of what such an annotation see this submission ot the Post Family Papers Project:

The Library session on Transcription will take place during scheduled class time in Rush Rhees Library on February 9.  A second library session on Annotation will take place in Rush Rhees on March 2.


Each annotation should include:

1. Keywords/people: Names, dates, events (e.g.
2. Content Description (e.g.

  • What are the physical qualities of the document? (e.g hand written, typed, are there stamps, seals, notations, etc.?).
  • Date(s) of the document
  • Author and recipient
  • Summary of the document's key ideas

3. The historical context of the letter, correspondents, and/or subject matter

  • What does the letter tell us about life during the writing of the letter?
  • Why was the letter written? What purpose(s) did it serve?
  • What is the tone of the letter?  What is the writer’s attitude towards the correspondent?  What is the attitude towards the subject matter of the letter? Are there interesting word choices and what might the author's choice in their use mean?
  • Which of Frederick Douglass's political theories or philosophies can be tied to the document?
  • Are there meaningful connections with other materials in UR Special Collections that mention keywords or people? (Hint: Google advanced site search of
  • Anticipate questions other readers might have (e.g. Explain any references to legislation, places, or people, etc.; Who was Frederick Douglass corresponding with and why?; What was the relationship between the Frederick Douglass and his correspondent?; What is the historical significance of that correspondent?; What questions are left unanswered by the letter and where might we find the answers to them?).
  • Save the annotations as footnotes at the end of your transcription Word document. Use the citation style your professor requires for your other course assignments.