Men and women 150 years ago grappled with information overload by making scrapbooks – the ancestors of Google and blogging. From Mark Twain to Susan B. Anthony, abolitionists to Confederates, African American janitors to farmwomen, people cut out and pasted down their reading.
This talk by Ellen Gruber Garvey is drawn from her new book, Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance.
Scrapbooks allowed activists and people who didn’t own the press to engage with media. The scrapbook histories that African Americans created were weapons and communal knowledge. In massive compilations—-hundreds of volumes, in some cases—-black people asserted ownership of news and culture and passed along their critical, oppositional reading of newspapers.
Women’s rights activists documented their activities in scrapbooks. Scrapbooks like Alice Dunbar-Nelson and North Carolinian Sallie Southall Cotton both documented women's pioneering participation in the public realm and experimented with ways to present it to varied audiences. They passed along their understanding that the press was not a simple record, but a set of voices and conversations to read critically.
The scrapbooks these nineteenth-century activists created reveals their personal, passionate, often critical, and always dynamic relationship to media.
October 29, 2012 5 pm. Duke University, Durham, NC. Library.
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