The Personal Writes the Political: Rendering Black Lives Legible Through the Application of Machine Learning to Anti-Apartheid Solidarity Letters


ACLS Digital Justice Seed Grants


Project Narrative - This project uses machine learning (ML) models to extract data from an archive of anti-apartheid solidarity letters predominantly written by Black South African women. This project intends to utilize newly developed optical character recognition (OCR) and handwritten text recognition (HTR) methods to render images of handwritten letters into machine readable text. Once processed, we will then train custom ML models to produce triplets, meaning two or more nouns related via a verb that indicate a qualitative relationship between two categories of data. A knowledge base derived from entity triplets will permit us to better understand the lives, struggles and contributions of Black women in South Africa by collecting data on relations embedded in their own words.