Dorsey’s 400 Black History Scrapbooks

William Henry Dorsey was a dedicated scrapbook maker beyond belief — around 400 scrapbooks from the 1860s to 1910s — not just the phenomenal “Colored Centenarians” book I wrote about in some detail in Writing with Scissors, but others on Philadelphia’s African American notables, black prize fighters, pictures of Africans, black education, Emancipation anniversary celebrations, black Odd Fellows — the list is vast. And yes, my hunch was confirmed: he did know about Robert M. Budd aka Back Number Budd, the pioneering black dealer in old newspapers in NYC. He corresponded with him, and he clipped an article on him I hadn’t seen before, from the Indiana Freeman.

William Dorsey's nephew, Dorsey Seville, worked at the post office, and passed along undeliverable papers for his uncle to clip.

William Dorsey’s nephew, Dorsey Seville, worked at the post office, and passed along undeliverable papers for his uncle to clip.

Sabra Statham, Matt Isham, Mike Furlough and others at Penn State’s “People’s Contest” project for digitizing otherwise hidden resources from the years around the Civil War are hoping to digitize them. Keith Bingham of Cheyney University has sent them over to be assessed. I hadn’t seen much of the actual collection before, but mainly the microfilm. The pallet full of boxes is an impressive sight! And the contents are dazzling — so many forgotten bits and pieces of African American history, clipped from newspapers — sometimes from black newspapers that have no documented copies still existing. Not to mention more information on how Dorsey got the newspapers he clipped, and how his friends and colleagues used them.

Here’s a video of my talk, setting William Henry Dorsey’s scrapbook in the context of other black scrapbook makers.

Evanston history in scrapbooks

Could this photo of Frances Willard show her making scrapbooks?

Could this photo of Frances Willard show her making scrapbooks? (Frances Willard House Museum)

As I was putting together my talk for the Northwestern University exhibit on scrapbooks coming up Wednesday, November 13, 4 pm, I realized that two of the women whose scrapbooks I’d written about had lived in Evanston. Women’s rights activist, writer, and speaker Elizabeth Boynton Harbert,and Women’s Christian Temperance Union leader Frances Willard were both great makers and users of strategic scrapbooks,  so of course I’ll talk about them. I’m hoping to get in to see the Frances Willard House, but so far haven’t heard back from the volunteers there.  I’ll be speaking as well on Nov 14, at 12:30 — a somewhat different talk.

Gender, Race and Representation in Magazines and New Media conference

Thrilled to be giving a keynote at the fabulous Gender, Race and Representationcropped-barbie8_v_20jul09_vogueitalia_b in Magazines and New Media conference, at Cornell next week! Noliwe Rooks has done great work organizing it. It’s bringing together scholars and magazine and blog practitioners. Alexis De Veaux speaking on Essence! Kimberly N. Foster’s keynote, “Black Women Blogging Ourselves into Being”! And on a scrapbook note, Caroline Keyser is speaking on “Pure food prodigy: Philippa Schuyler, Celebrity Embodiment, and the Politics of Race.” I had a chance to look at the scrapbooks Schuyler’s mother compiled, now at Syracuse, and am very curious about what Keyser makes of this deeply strange story. My talk is “Hidden Histories: African American Community Resistance to the 19th Century Press” — discussing how black readers undermined and resisted the white newspapers’ and magazines’ attempts to segregate the imagined community of magazine and newspaper readership.

Philadelphia talk May 21: Ephemera exhibit at the Library Company

The new exhibit at the Library Company of Philadelphia is

Ephemera at the Library Company of Philadelphia

Remnants of Everyday Life: Historical Ephemera in the Workplace, Street, and Home. I’ll be speaking on the history of scrapbooks at the opening, May 21, 5:45.

March 27 talk at Massachusetts Historical Society

leatherbee

From Mrs. Albert T. Leatherbee’s Anti-Suffrage scrapbook

Some of the extraordinary scrapbooks I worked with at the Massachusetts Historical Society will be on display there for my talk March 27, 6 pm (come early for wine and cheese). The lively (I’m told) talk, with lots of pictures, is on 19th Century Activists and Their Scrapbooks. Writing with Scissors talk at MHS — sign in to let them know you’re coming.

Speaking in Jersey City: Hidden Histories: African American and Women’s Rights Scrapbooks

Monday Feb. 25, 7 pm New Jersey City University, 2039 Kennedy Blvd., Jersey City NJ

GSUB 129 – Free and open to the public.For more information click here.

Move over Instagram! There’s an old-school way to cut, paste, and share the things that grab you. Men and women 150 years ago grappled with information overload by making scrapbooks – the ancestors of Google and blogging. From Mark Twain to Frederick Douglass to Susan B. Anthony, African American janitors to farmwomen, people cut out and pasted down their reading.

My Lesbian and Gay literature class will be attending, so discussion should be lively!

Joint Event Black History Month/Women’s History Month

Reviewed in New York Review of Books

Gumby scrapbook page of Frederick Douglass

A page about Frederick Douglass from the scrapbooks of L. S. Alexander Gumby – Columbia Univ. Libraries

Christopher Benfey’s review in the New York Review of Books blog of Writing with Scissors, “Scrapbook Nation,” makes great connections between scrapbooks and the writings of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. He reproduces some of the Dickinson writings on scraps of paper in the Amherst College archives that I had the chance to see this fall, with Karen Sanchez-Eppler’s class. Gorgeous and tantalizing. I’m so thrilled to have this brilliant and beautiful writer enjoying my book! (And I’m inspired to catch up on his other reviews – enjoyable reading.)

http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/feb/20/scrapbook-nation/