Author discusses 19th century American scrapbooks and African-American history

Visiting scholar Ellen Gruber Garvey will give a presentation, “Hidden Histories: African American Scrapbooks Talk Back to the White Press in the 19th Century,” from 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library on the University Park campus of Penn State. The presentation also will be streamed on MediaSite.

Garvey is the author of "Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance," a recent book from Oxford University Press that breaks new ground analyzing and discussing scrapbooking as an historical and cultural practice. A book signing in Mann Assembly Room, 103 Paterno Library, will follow the presentation and books will be available for sale.

In particular, Garvey, who is professor of English at the New Jersey City University, will discuss how African-Americans used scissors to write Black history, based on her work with the scrapbooks of many early Black scrapbook makers, including William Henry Dorsey, the son of an escaped slave and an extraordinarily prolific scrapbook maker. Born in 1837 in Philadelphia, Dorsey made about 400 scrapbooks between 1860 and 1903, mostly about Black life and history. Even W.E.B. Du Bois consulted Dorsey’s scrapbooks while writing “The Philadelphia Negro.” Dorsey's collection gathers information to assert the complex place of African-Americans in U.S. history, often wresting black history from the hostile white press.

Garvey’s talk is jointly sponsored by the Penn State University Libraries and the Richards Civil War Era Center. It is held in conjunction with a research grant funded by the Penn State Africana Research Center that is supporting Penn State Libraries Digitization and Preservation Department’s condition assessment of the monumental William Dorsey Scrapbook Collection, currently on loan from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.

For more information or for questions about accessibility accommodations, contact Sabra Stratham at siw101@psu.edu or at 814-865-0526, during normal business hours.

Last Updated April 04, 2014