The scrapbook reader presents one of Anna Julia Cooper’s scrapbooks in which she collected articles, essays, brief notes, and a poem that she wrote and/or published between 1931-1940s. The scrapbook holds an important place in African American history as a way of creating an alternative material record of what is deemed valuable and of documenting that which might otherwise be lost or maligned.
For African American women in particular, who often faced the constraints of race and gender politics within the publishing industry, the scrapbook documents a will to claim a public voice; the desire to create a future-oriented archive; a commitment to document Black women’s intellectual history; an ingenuity for working within but also beyond the bounds of conventional publishing and institutional structure; and a recognition that their working and writing was important and would be of value to future generations.
For Cooper in particular, her 1931-1940 scrapbook is more than just a collection of articles or essays, and in fact constitutes another book in Cooper’s archive. As she pastes her articles and essays into F. Lawrence Babcocks’ The First Fifty, 1889-1939 (Standard Oil, 1939), she overwrites the celebratory tale of rise of industrial capitalism that the base text relates with her own critiques of industrialization, racial capitalism, and rugged individualism.
The original scrapbook reader was created by Jonathan Kosegi in 2018 and allows viewers to adjust the transparency of the Cooper’s articles revealing the base text over which she pasted her articles and thus allowing viewers to gain insight into the broader, more radical narrative that Cooper’s scrapbook tells.