Alice Dunbar-Nelson in my Washington Post article – based on her scrapbooks

alice dunbar nelson

Alice Dunbar-Nelson, in the photo taken around 1900, which appeared in the many newspaper articles about her suffrage work in 1915.

My article in today’s Washington Post “Made by History” section, “How a new exhibit corrects our skewed understanding of women’s suffrage: Addressing racism in the suffrage movement” tells about the fabulous exhibit, “Votes for Women,” opening today at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. This exhibit avoids the narrow “Seneca Falls to 1920” framing of women’s struggles for the vote to include the activism of African American churchwomen, clubwomen, and educators, and later civil rights activists, and Native Americans and Puerto Ricans, whose timeline for getting the vote was very different.

My article focused on Alice Dunbar-Nelson, an African American writer, speaker, teacher, and all around activist, whose portrait is in the exhibit. Her story, not in the exhibit, is fascinating. I learned about her 1915 campaign tour for suffrage through her scrapbook – really the only record there is of this work. The news articles she collected about her speeches were in local papers, not digitized or even microfilmed. She was bold enough to think that evidence of her work should be saved, and savvy enough to realize that if she didn’t do it, no one else would. Her scrapbook is thus almost the only trace we have of the very particular arguments for suffrage she addressed to the black community.

If the Washington Post article whets your appetite, you can read more about Alice

1917 black women organizing for vote

Photo of a gathering of black suffrage activist, 1917. Anyone know who is who?

Dunbar-Nelson’s suffrage work in my 2016 article, “Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson’s Suffrage Work: The View from Her Scrapbook” Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, 33: 2; 310-335. If you’re not a subscriber, you’ll need access to J-Stor or ProjectMuse to get to it.

The exhibit catalog has an eye-opening essay by Martha S. Jones – essential reading on African American suffrage involvement: “The Politics of Black Womanhood, 1848-2008.”

I must get to DC!

 

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In honor of US Women’s Suffrage Anniversary, Aug 26: Slate article on Susan B. Anthony’s Scrapbooks

August 26 marks the anniversary of the day in 1920 when the 19th Amendment became law, and women  in the US could finally vote.

Could Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton  be working on scrapbooks in this picture?

Could Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton be working on scrapbooks in this picture?

Susan B. Anthony didn’t live to see the day she worked so hard for. Her scrapbooks are among the many scrapbooks by women’s rights activists that show how they learned to pay attention to, critique and use the press in the fight for women’s rights. Here’s my post in the wonderful Vault column that Rebecca Onion runs at Slate, discussing how Susan B. used her scrapbooks — and of course there’s more on it in Writing with Scissors, along with analysis of Alice Dunbar Nelson’s suffrage scrapbooks, Lillie Devereux Blake’s, Elizabeth Boynton Harbert’s, and many more.

Susan B. Anthony’s scrapbooks