W.E.B. Du Bois’ BEAUTIFUL, Hand-Drawn Charts on Black Economic Life

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Prints and Photographs

W.E.B. Du Bois and collaborators put on an exhibition on the state of black American life for the 1900 Paris Exposition. According to reports, the exhibit consisted of charts, books, maps, and photographs that details much of the black experience, including reports on the economic life of blacks. Luckily, that exhibition isn’t lost to time. The Library of Congress offers digital access to  photographs shown in that display and recently added scans of 57 hand-drawn charts to their collection. From Slate:

These documents, executed with help from some of Du Bois’ students at Atlanta University, give a statistical picture of the life of African-Americans at the turn of the century. The charts below are part of Du Bois’ “Georgia Negro” project, a subsection of the larger exhibit that looked at the African-American population in Georgia. I selected these three charts to show how Du Bois represented the economic situation of his sample; other topics covered in the remaining charts include literacy, “conjugal condition,” and migration patterns.

In his website about Du Bois’ involvement with the Paris Exposition, historian Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr. writes that Du Bois was disappointed with the general quality of the other exhibits housed in the sociology section of the exhibit, finding them unscientific. Du Bois’ statistics were drawn from his own empirical work, and assessed measures of property ownership, employment, health, and mobility across decades. Read more.

Prints and Photographs

Prints and Photographs

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