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W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America (Hardcover)
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The colorful charts, graphs, and maps presented at the 1900 Paris Exposition by famed sociologist and black rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois offered a view into the lives of black Americans, conveying a literal and figurative representation of "the color line." From advances in education to the lingering effects of slavery, these prophetic infographics—beautiful in design and powerful in content— make visible a wide spectrum of black experience. W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits collects the complete set of graphics in full color for the first time, making their insights and innovations available to a contemporary imagination. As Maria Popova wrote, these data portraits shaped how "Du Bois himself thought about sociology, informing the ideas with which he set the world ablaze three years later in The Souls of Black Folk."
About the Author
Whitney Battle-Baptiste is the director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center at University of Massachusetts Amherst and an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is the author of Black Feminist Archaeology.
Britt Rusert is an assistant professor in the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture.
"W.E.B. Du Bois wasn't just one of the foremost civil rights activists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was also a data visualization whiz who was able to turn his sociological research into innovative infographics that communicated the reality of the African-American experience to the world. Du Bois spent more than 20 years of his life working as a sociologist at Atlanta University studying black communities. In 1900, he was asked to contribute to the American Negro Exhibit, a showcase at the Exposition Universelle in Paris designed to explore the progress of black Americans since Emancipation. In response, he and his students at Atlanta University created 60 different infographics on topics like literacy rates, property ownership, and population growth of black Americans using research from his sociology lab, U.S. government data from the Census, other reports. More than a century later, these innovative infographics have been collected in a new book from Princeton Architectural Press called W.E.B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America."
- Mental Floss
"At the Paris Exposition in 1900, W.E.B. Du Bois, activist, writer, sociologist, historian, exhibited a number of graphs, charts, and maps that illustrate "the color line" and shined a spotlight into how Black Americans were living. In "W.E.B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America: The Color Line at the Turn of the Twentieth Century'' (Princeton Architectural), published last month, editors Whitney Battle-Baptiste and Britt Rusert, both professors at UMass Amherst, collected these images together for the first time. The result is as visually arresting as it is informative. Du Bois's use of color and line is elegant and gave form to his sociological theses that would later guide "The Souls of Black Folk.'' Coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Du Bois's birth, the book shows the ways, as noted in the introduction, that "data might be reimagined as a form of accountability and even protest in the age of Black Lives Matter.''
- The Boston Globe
"W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits is an exquisitely designed, highly informative, and eminently teachable study-a testament to Du Bois's seemingly boundless innovation, not only as a theorist of race but as a visual architect and data artist. Battle-Baptiste and Rusert have given us a gift in this volume: a feast for the eyes, a feast for the intellect."
- Leigh Raiford, University of California, Berkeley, author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle
"This fascinating reproduction of all the data visualizations prepared by Du Bois and his team for the American Negro Exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition is so modern as to be nearly anachronistic. The introduction is also excellent, briefly providing historical and political context to the primary source materials. These plates represent a very contemporary approach to a social problem that still looms large in our country and will interest scholars of African American studies, design, data visualization, sociology, and history. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
"These rarely seen and beautifully rendered data visualizations show the promise and creative possibilities of black art and science, more than a century ago, to remak eAmerica in the true image of all her people. Drawn in brilliant and vivid colors in these portraits, Du Bois's color line reminds us that the struggle for justice is also the struggle for truth, then as now."
- Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Harvard University, author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America
"Speaking of fire, W.E.B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America, edited by Whitney Battle-Baptiste and Britt Rusert, collects Du Bois' crucial contributions to the Exposition des Negres d'Amerique at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, and makes these images available to a wide public for the first time. Du Bois and a group of students and alumni from Atlanta University created an arresting set of images compiling and depicting information on African-American homeownership in Georgia, occupation, courses of study, literacy, "conjugal condition[s]," and city vs. rural population, among others. This is "speculative data" at the turn of the 20th century: data attesting to the tenacity of life, of its lived, multifaceted dailyness, of the intention toward futurity. These images are as precise as they are dazzling; sobering and chromatic all at once. They also unleash modernist forms of abstraction and conceptual artistry decades ahead of their time. As Silas Munro's ekphrastic captions suggest: the data portraits are Kandinsky before Kandinsky, Bauhaus before Bauhaus. The data portraits confronted Parisian exhibition-goers with an aesthetic storm of data, life rendered over and over in brilliant, swooping arcs of color and pulsating design. A graphic rendering of fire."
"Rusert and Whitney Battle-Baptiste, associate professor of anthropology at U-Mass and director of its W.E.B. Du Bois Center, are the editors of a newly published book, W.E.B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America. It is, somehow, the first time that Du Bois' groundbreaking data visualizations from the Paris World Fair have been collected together in color in a book format."
- Smithsonian Magazine
"Refusing the boundaries between art and sociology, abstraction and portraiture, the evident rhythm and the evident incalculability of human action, Du Bois gives data dimension and color, inside and outside the color line, in compositional concert, the black modernism and modernity he prophesies and performs always one step away, two steps ahead."
- Fred Moten, University of California, Riverside, author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition
"In re-envisioning Du Bois the artist alongside Du Bois the scientist, this magnificent volume demonstrates that race is a visual economy-a system of vision and division that structures who lives and who dies. The contributors remind us that how we see race (or pretend not to) matters as much in our scholarly representations of social life as in our everyday lives."
- Ruha Benjamin, Princeton University, author of Race After Technology
"Collected for the first time in book form on the occasion of Du Bois's 150th birthday, and accompanied by academic essays, the infographics underscore the groundbreaking contributions of this eminent intellect and activist."