Spring 2019

Information and emancipation

W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America, 
The Color Line at the Turn of 
the Twentieth Century

By Whitney Battle-Baptiste and 
Britt Rusert (editors). Designed by Benjamin English. Princeton Architecture Press, £21.99, €29.95

This book brings to light an audacious moment in the long career of civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963). It took place during the first McKinley administration, at the end of the Gilded Age and the rise of Jim Crow laws. Du Bois, then a professor at Atlanta University in Georgia, enlisted a group of students to prepare a set of data portraits for the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris. Editors Battle-Baptiste and Rusert, who have published these graphics for the first time in book form, tell us that ‘Du Bois and his team used Georgia’s diverse and growing black population’ to produce their graphics ‘as a case study to demonstrate the progress made by African Americans since the Civil War’. The first 36 plates were part of ‘The Georgia Negro: A Social Study’. The 27 additional plates had the title: ‘A Series of Statistical Charts Illustrating the Condition of the Descendants of Former African Slaves Now in Residence in the United States of America’.

These diagrams communicate the social and economic status of the African-American population of the country in general and Georgia in greater detail …

10. EYE_9815752

Paul Kahn, information designer, Boston, US

Read the full version in Eye no. 98 vol. 25, 2019


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues. You can see what Eye 98 looks like at Eye Before You Buy on Vimeo.

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