The Frederick Douglass Papers is a research unit of the School of Liberal Arts’ Institute for American Thought, dedicated to collecting, transcribing, editing, and publishing all of the speeches, correspondence, and writings of the iconic nineteenth-century African American. After fourteen years in the basement of the campus ES Building, the Douglass Papers relocated to the third floor of Cavanaugh Hall in late January 2020, just in time for the closing of that building on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. While editing operations were continued by project staff in their home for most of the rest of the year, the project has gradually started work back in its offices. Led by Jack Kaufman-McKivigan, the Mary O’Brien Gibson Professor of History, and Jeffery Duvall, a Ph.D. research scholar, the Douglass Papers is far along in its goal for publishing a fifteen-volume scholarly edition with Yale University Press with its eleventh and twelfth volumes currently in press. The project recently launched its digital edition to supplement its selected print edition with the online reproduction of all of Douglass known correspondence. The project also sponsors a biannual interdisciplinary symposium on Douglass, the next one is scheduled for October 2021 when fourteen international scholars will visit IUPUI. The Douglass Papers also edits its own annual scholarly journal, the New North Star, hosted by the IUPUI Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship. In all of these activities, the project has benefitted from the labor of IUPUI undergraduate and graduate students from a number of SLA departments working with the full-time staff.
Two other projects supported by the Douglass Papers deserves special attention. For the past four years, project staff along with Professor Owen Dwyer of the SLA’s Geography Department have mentored teams of students on a project supported by the IUPUI Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Institute to map all of the thousands of public speeches by Douglass on state-of the art software. For the past three years, the Douglass Papers staff has also guided the Hoosiers Reading Frederick Douglass Together program. A staff member and one or more IUPUI students go to various community locations, libraries, schools, or community centers and lead public participation readings from the speeches of Douglass. The readings are followed by audience discussion of the relevance of Douglass’s words to the issues the nation faces today.
John R. Kaufman-McKivigan is Mary O’Brien Gibson Professor in the Department of History, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI
Jeffery A. Duvall is a Research Associate in The Institute for American Thought, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI