W.E.B. Du Bois's Data Portraits
Visualizing Black America
by Edited by Whitney Battle-Baptiste and Britt Rusert
Pub Date 23 Oct 2018
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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."
“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 remake America 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
“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
“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