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Citizen Archivists

1 Post authored by: Kristen Pomroy

On September 24, 2016, the Smithsonian celebrated the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. To mark the event, the National Archives is having a transcription challenge for records pertaining to African-American history in its catalog.


So why should this matter to you?


African-American history is sometimes presented in linear terms. It begins with the horrors of slavery, its abolition at the end of the Civil War, and it culminates with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The reality, of course, is much more complicated, and leaves a more extensive paper trail than you may have imagined. Consider the petitions calling for the abolition of slavery sent to individual state government prior to the 13th Amendment; the reports compiled on the education and welfare of African-American students before and after Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka went before the Supreme Court; and the amount of legislative records that went into the creation of laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


History is in the details, and is not just a series of major events. By transcribing and tagging the documents in the National Archives’ Catalog, you are making primary sources accessible for everyone. You (yes, you!) are helping to fill in the gaps, and piece-by-piece and detail-by-detail uncover the long lost stories of the past for the present and future.


So your (transcription) mission, should you choose to accept it, is to:


First, get instructions on how to get started as a volunteer transcriber.


Once you’re all set up, browse through the records in the mission. If you find something that peaks your interest, click on it and begin transcribing and tagging. When you’re done, take a look at NARA’s other transcription missions.

Have questions or need clarification? Comment below. Happy typing!