Conserving The Scrapbook of William Sanders Scarborough


smaller_hewitt_press_0Rare 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.

Duct-taped spine and cover of William Sanders Scarborough's scrapbook

Duct-taped spine and cover of William Sanders Scarborough’s scrapbook

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.

Paper items that came loose from the scrapbook are reattached by Japanese tissue hinges

Paper items that came loose from the scrapbook are reattached by Japanese tissue hinges

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.

A page from William Sanders Scarborough's scrapbook

A page from William Sanders Scarborough’s scrapbook

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.

Detached spine from A page from William Sanders Scarborough's scrapbook

Detached spine from A page from William Sanders Scarborough’s scrapbook

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.

Cover of Scarborough's autobiography

Cover of Scarborough’s autobiography

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.”

Cover of Lawrence P. Jackson's The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960

Cover of Lawrence P. Jackson’s The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960

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).

One Reply to “Conserving The Scrapbook of William Sanders Scarborough”

  1. African American Ancestral Obligation:
    At-risk black youth desperately need to know the history of scholars and leaders like William Sanders Scarborough. I was born in Macon, Georgia and grew up there. Unfortunately for me, I knew nothing about Scarborough until I got to college.
    African Americans (AAs) owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the previous generations hopes and efforts to bring a better day of opportunity to the next generation. All AAs owe the responsibility of researching and learning their culture and history so they can inform the future generations to lead a purposeful , moral life of achievement, and give something back to their respective communities. This is the ancestral obligation every AA should accept and pass on to their children.
    AA adults and children must accept, learn, and embrace AA culture, and history to impart ancestral obligation to motivate AA youth to want to learn. At-risk AA youth need this information to develop positive self- esteem, to know their place in the world, and to be motivated to finish high school. Middle class high achieving AA youth need this knowledge to be inspired to give something back to their AA community. AA history must become an integral accepted part of the authentic history of United States to continue making a more perfect union. At-risk AA targeted educational motivational strategies that do not include ancestral obligation are doomed to failure. American history that does not significantly include the contribution of AAs is incomplete and non-authentic. Scarborough’s story desperately needs to be told to motivate our AA youth, and inform all our youth.
    T. Duval DDS, MPH

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