William Dorsey's Philadelphia and Ours: On the Past and Future of the Black City in America

By Roger Lane | Go to book overview

APPENDIX I
The William Henry Dorsey Collection at Cheyney State University

The William Henry Dorsey Collection officially consists of books, manuscripts, biographical clippings, and scrapbooks. Cheyney provides a catalogue entitled "Indexes of the William H. Dorsey Collection, Cheyney State College," with an introduction by Sulayman Clark, which includes a brief biographical sketch as accurate as possible when it was written in 1980. Dr. Clark, together with Dr. James Redpath, was responsible for arranging the collection during 1981-82, following an evaluation by experts in Afro-Americana Charles Blockson and Dorothy Porter-Wesley.

The listed books include 155 titles, some of which have not been conclusively identified as Dorsey's, others which have; most of the latter, and many of the former, deal with slavery, abolition, and the black experience. In contrast only a minority, about 340, of the subjects of the 914 alphabetically arranged biographical files and clippings are African-Americans, as determined either by the cataloguers or myself. Although potentially useful to scholars, these files contain relatively few letters, mostly short, and a handful of autographs or pictures, more of the white subjects--many of them quite obscure Philadelphia officeholders, for example-- than of the black. Most of the items in each file are newspaper clippings, often obituaries; the great majority of the subjects have been identified by the cataloguers, the black ones starred for reference.

Of the 388 scrapbooks, the first 261 have been microfilmed; the rest remain tied in red bows in the archive, where they must be treated with great care. With the exceptions of numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7, which are relevant but not strictly African- American in content, the first 130 deal almost exclusively with American black subjects, and so do 242-44, 285, 286, and 287. There are several short scrapbooks, too, which Dorsey titled but are not listed, many of them on microfilm after number 61. These are collectively the backbone of this book. Many of the others are concerned in addition with Africans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and other peoples of color. The rest amply show the breadth of Dorsey's interests and curiosity, and deal with subjects such as antiquities, literature, the theater, crime and scandal, famous persons, and above all art in all forms from pyramids to coins.

Dorsey himself indexed most of these books, titled a few, and put none in order;

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