Joel Augustus Rogers’ Newspaper Clippings


Dr. Richard Newton
Marco Pflanzen
Leah Varnell
Holly Brand


Joel Augustus Rogers was a Jamaican-born author, newspaper writer, and amateur historian. After immigrating to the United States, Rogers realized how American class was intimately tied with race. In response, Rogers began writing a series of newspaper clippings in the Pittsburgh Courier. Initially called “Your History” and later called “Facts About the Negro,” Rogers’ writings inspired African Americans. Dr. Newton’s grandmother compiled many of these clippings in a leather bound notebook. These family clippings form the core of this developing digital project.

As the physical notebook is disintegrating, the initial step for preservation and analysis has been digitization. Current and former students of Dr. Newton’s African Diaspora Religions course have significantly contributed to the project. Students transcribed the text of the notebook clippings, then scanned the clippings using the OpticBook A300i in the REL Digital Lab. Current students are compiling metadata to describe each clipping and document their own reflexive note taking. AntConc, software for concordancing and text analysis, is being used to analyze the text. Finally, StoryMapJS is being used to locate the clippings spatially to reveal geographic range of Rogers’ examples.

Despite constituting a relatively small sample, these newspaper clippings provide an opportunity to examine the category of myth – in the words of Bruce Lincoln – “as ideology in narrative form,” while also making a digital data set that students and researchers can use to investigate one person’s understanding of the African diaspora. Through the project students are exploring questions such as which places, what times, and which narratives does Rogers focus on, and what sorts of discourse analysis can we apply to the data set.

Future plans include using TimelineJS to locate the clippings in time, as well as expanding the data with other writings and clippings from Rogers’ career. 

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