Writing a Scrapbook #1: Obituary for Philip White

In her lecture, Carla Peterson described Black Gotham as a “partial” history of black elites in New York – “partial” because it is incomplete, because she is attached to it and because her family is a part of it. She also told us that it is a “spatial history,” organized by the geography and topography of New York City.

But the story begins with a family tale about her paternal great-grandfather Philip Augustus White, which lead Peterson to seek out more information at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. There, in a box labeled “biography” by a researcher from an earlier generation (Rhoda G. Freeman, author of The Free Negro in New York City in the Era Before the Civil War), she found this piece of paper, an obituary for “the late P.A. White.” This first scrap, his obituary from the February 21, 1891 issue of the New York Age, provides the first tangible piece of  the scrapbook in Black Gotham. It transformed Philip Augustus White from a mis-described family legend (as a “white Haitian”) into a documented, embodied pharmacist who was educated in African Free Schools and became longtime communicant at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.

Image from the Rhoda G. Freeman Manuscript and Research Collection, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s