By Kim Norman, Conservator, Emory University Libraries Preservation Office
Rare scrapbooks that document African American life in the United States from 1890-1975 are being preserved with support through a “Save America’s Treasures” (SAT) grant. The project is a collaborative effort with Emory University Preservation Office, Digitization Center, and the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL). The SAT grant is awarded through the Department of Interior and the National Park Service, in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
The small scrapbook of William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926) is full of newspaper articles, invitations, and extremely rare broadsides specific to Scarborough’s life and work. The contents of the scrapbook document him as a staunch proponent of the Republican Party, an educator and activist committed to the classically-based, liberal arts education, and a member of many societies. These included the American Negro Academy, the Modern Language Association, the American Philological Association, and the National Association for Advancement of Colored People.
The scrapbook is so full that the duct-taped spine is detached on the inside of the book, and the covers are separated from the text block. The conservation treatment of this scrapbook is clear and, in two phases, will be quick. The book structure has been stabilized as a first phase, and after digitization, the binding will be repaired as a second phase. In many ways, Scarborough’s material within the scrapbook deserves longer attention than the treatment.
Originally a blank journal, the memorabilia and ephemera were attached to pages to create the scrapbook of miscellaneous clippings, indicated in the handwritten title on the front cover, ANA Miscellaneous Clippings WS Scarborough Ex-Pres Wilberforce Univ Vol. The title describes some parts of Scarborough’s life of which he was proud, his professional memberships and accomplishments. Based on the title, it appears that he anticipated creating more than one volume. Because the text block was so full of attachments, the broken spine of the volume and the detached front cover were held in place only by black duct tape, as seen in the photograph.
Small paper items originally were pasted into the blank book, but they became damaged or detached over time. Using wheat starch paste to return items to their original locations, items either were hinged with Japanese tissue or lined from the back. This was done especially where folded news clippings broke at the crease.
To date, the binding has been stabilized and readied for digitization. Scanning each page of the scrapbook as high-resolution images will allow digital files to be available for online research. Some broadsides in the scrapbook are quite rare. Small and often overlooked, broadsides would have been posted or distributed at events, then discarded.
By digitizing each page, we can make these types of materials available, providing a rare look into the past. As much as possible, retaining the experience of viewing this scrapbook is very important in its conservation. It is a valuable, fragile item and ultimately will be protected by a custom-made box, becoming a permanent component of the special collections in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) of Emory University.
Scarborough was born a slave in Macon, Georgia on February 16, 1852. He was taught to read and encouraged to learn, although education of blacks in Georgia at that time was illegal and punishable. After the Civil War, everything changed, and Scarborough enrolled in the schools of Macon, finally able to study without threat. He earned both BA and MA degrees from Oberlin College in Ohio.
In 1881, Scarborough became the first African American to publish a textbook on ancient Greek and spent his life teaching classical studies. In the late 19th century, the field of classics was considered to be the measure of one’s educational quality. With Scarborough’s textbook, the Western idea that blacks were unable to learn had been upended, and he became one of the foremost African American intellectuals of his era.
Professor Scarborough joined the classical studies faculty at Wilberforce University in Ohio. While there, he was reacquainted with Sarah Cordelia Bierce, a fellow professor. Sarah had been a school principal at Lewis High School in Macon, the same school where Scarborough taught until it was burned by arsonists in 1876. The Scarboroughs married in 1881, somewhat scandalous for the time as Sarah was both white and previously married (though none of their personal papers reveal anything of her first marriage).
In 1908, Scarborough became university president of Wilberforce, and in that same year, he received an honorary doctorate from Morris Brown College in Atlanta. It was in 1913 and during his university presidency that Ohio tried to introduce legislation which would have outlawed interracial marriage. By that year, the Scarboroughs had been married thirty-two of their forty-five years together. Passage of this law would have forced them from the state or nullified their long marriage. Again, neither one ever commented on the subject in their personal papers.
Later in life and finally with his wife’s assistance, Scarborough wrote a twenty-eight chapter autobiography. Beginning as a slave narrative, the autobiography spanned his Georgia childhood to retirement in Ohio, and when Scarborough’s health declined, leading to his death, his wife completed the work. She bequeathed the unpublished manuscript upon her death in 1933, hoping that it would be shepherded into book form someday. Though the original manuscript no longer exists, under the editorship of Michele Ronnick, a second version finally realized publication in 2005 as The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough.
Though Scarborough never had any children, many look to him as the father of black academicians. He sharply opposed the practical views of Booker T. Washington, a vocal proponent of hands-on, technical training. Scarborough’s influence casts a long shadow, predating others such as W.E.B. Du Bois. To paraphrase Michele Ronnick, Scarborough was a scholarly Horatio Alger, "side-stepping the limitations of fate yet permanently ensnared by race...dedicating himself to intellectualism and racial uplift.”
In 2001, the William Sanders Scarborough Prize was established by the Modern Language Association, awarding outstanding scholarly study of black American literature or culture. Professor Lawrence P. Jackson of Emory University received the award most recently for his book, The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960 (Princeton University Press, 2010).
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