Silas Munro on W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America

Silas Munro on W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America

Letterform Archive

Lecture at SFPL Main Library, Koret Auditorium
Tue, Oct 29, 2019
6:00pm–7:30pm PDT

W. E. B. Du Bois was a prolific author, renowned sociologist, fierce civil rights advocate, co-founder of the NAACP, and a historian of black lives. He was also a pioneer in data visualization. Working with ink, gouache, graphite, and photographic prints, Du Bois and his student and alumni collaborators at Atlanta University generated crisp, dynamic, and modern graphics as a form of infographic activism. 63 brightly colored broadsheets were exhibited in Paris and made 20 years before the founding of the Bauhaus. These visualizations offer a prototype of design practices now vital in our contemporary world—of design for social innovation, data visualization in service to social justice, and the decolonization of pedagogy.