Black Data:

W.E.B. Du Bois and Data Visualization


Known for being a prolific author, renowned sociologist, fierce civil rights advocate for people of color, founder of the NAACP, and historian, WEB Du Bois was also a pioneer of data visualization. The American Negro was one initiative of the United States Exhibition to a global audience at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Du Bois was part of a collective of black intellectuals and professionals who contributed to a multidisciplinary display representing the best of African American advancement at the turn of the century. A cornerstone of the exhibit was The Georgia Negro, a set of 63 brightly-colored diagrams visualizing a sociological study by Du Bois and his students at Atlanta University. The dataset made arguments in visual form for the equality and sophistication of black Americans. Du Bois and his team generated avant-garde graphics 20 years before the founding of the Bauhaus. Du Bois and his collaborator's work is a prototypical case study of design for social innovation, decolonized design pedagogy, and expanded practice.