The Boston Public Library needs help transcribing 40,000 anti-slavery documents from the 19th century

Originally published at:


That and loads of other interesting citizen science projects are found at


great, now no one can ever complain ‘i have nothing to do…!’ anymore


I can read cursive pretty alright but man i was having trouble just reading the little bit posted here on BB.

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Interesting, I read that snippet at almost talking speed. I wonder if it’s an age thing? I’m in my early 50s and was therefore raised on cursive. You?


I was raised on a mix of cursive & print (i’m 36). But i haven’t actively read cursive since high school i think.

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I wonder how they’re keeping trolls out of the system?


They could give every line to multiple people and throw away the outlier responses.


I cannot make out this

“I fitted out for a ??? voyage,”

Any ideas?

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“Three hour”.
That or “fourth”.


Fourth makes sense, thank you.

And thanks to @Sludge @Fred_Cairns and @Malarkey


“Feeling guilty about white privilege? Go here.”

Agree it’s Fourth. I am having similar problems as I browse the site. I haven’t signed up yet. It’d be cool to have a code or be able to highlight a word you have less than 100% confidence you got right. They could also rank transcribers so that the better ones are automatically assigned the documents that prove most difficult to most of the volunteers, and to make the final pass at others.

Also worth mentioning, from the site:

While the abolitionists were united in their fight against the enslavement of Black people, they were not always united when it came to the question of whether or not women should participate in the movement.

Women’s rights also proved a dominant theme in the abolitionist movement, and the deep contention surrounding this issue is reflected in the correspondence. In addition, while the collection documents years of concerted effort on behalf of the abolitionists to end slavery, the letters also report frequently on resistance against the movement, thereby providing insight into the opposition.

Once slavery was abolished, these then-seasoned organizers began working on prohibition. In our collective memory we mostly remember it as a highly politicized, vote-pandering and fruitless effort, but alcohol had become a very destructive force in the U.S. Not to say it isn’t today, but it would not be (as) regulated if it hadn’t been for their efforts. As to how it had become part of nation’s identity, the real story of Johnny Appleseed is pretty interesting.


Definitely “fourth”.


Well, if it wasn’t Gilligan and The Skipper, I guess “fourth.”


I see what you did there :wink:


I think it’s a misspelling: “fowrth”

“Fourth” without mispelling. He uses 2 kinds or “r”-s, see in “service” and “resigned”.

anyone know… is that some abbreviation for “the” in the first line. “[the] mercy of god” – i know & use abbreviations for “and”, i didn’t know there was one for “the”.

I assumed it was a personal abbreviation for the.

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My vote is with “fourth.”