In 1854 Frederick Douglass urged the readers of his newspaper to clip out an article called “Black Heroes”: “Colored men! Save this extract. Cut it out and put it in your Scrap-book.” The item told of armed African American soldiers in the Revolutionary War and listed the names of eighteenth-century “black men who had fought and bled for their country” as proof of black people’s stake in the nation. In exhorting “colored men!” to cut out the extract, put it in their scrapbooks, “and use it at the proper time,” Douglass suggested that the clipping itself could be ammunition for a cause…He thus identified a crucial potential in nineteenth-century scrapbooks made of newspaper clippings: scrapbooks could be a weapon.


Excerpt from Ellen Gruber Garvey, Writing With Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance, Oxford University Press, 2013.

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