Why would a black janitor in Philadelphia in the 1870s make 150 scrapbooks? Why would
his friend, a black collector and amateur historian, make nearly 400? You may think of scrapbooks as a place to treasure up family pictures, but a century ago, African Americans created histories with them, shared community knowledge, and taught one another to read the white press critically.
For National Scrapbooking Day (May 4), it’s time to learn about how African American men and women saved and shared history in their scrapbooks not long after emancipation. My article in The Root explores the work of one prodigious scrapbook maker in Philadelphia, whose collection aided WEB Du Bois. (And of course there’s lots more about William Henry Dorsey in Writing with Scissors.)