Noted sociologist and activist W.E.B. Du Bois assembled a series of charts and graphs for the Negro Exhibit of the American Section at the Paris Exposition Universelle, with the help of Atlanta University students. They prepared two sets of data. The students created a set titled “A series of statistical charts illustrating the condition of the descendants of former African slaves now in residence in the United States of America”. W.E.B. Du Bois worked on a second set called “The Georgia Negro.” This work was accompanied by an article wherein Du Bois wrote:
The charts are in two sets, one illustrating conditions in the entire United States and the other conditions in the typical State of Georgia. At a glance one can see the successive steps by which the 220,000 Negroes of 1750 had increased to 7,500,000 in 1890; their distribution throughout the different States; a com- parison of the size of the Negro population with European countries bringing out the striking fact that there are nearly half as many Negroes in the United States as Spaniards in Spain.
I was struck by the strong graphic design of these charts when I encountered them recently. In February in the United States, we celebrate Black History Month, and media organizations often recognize it by writing profiles of significant historical fig- ures and events. There’s much to learn from that history, and yet we often miss how it fits together. Having the information collected in this way gives us another perspective, and the means to compare it to the current situation.
While data art from the exhibit is included throughout the issue, I want to show you a few of the charts as they were displayed. 1
- Find the full collection on the Library of Congress website ↩