W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America
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.
Silas Munro is a partner of Polymode. His studio has collaborated with clients in the cultural sphere including Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, MoMA, and The New Museum. Munro’s writing appears in Slanted, Walker Gradient, and the book, W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America published by Princeton Architectural Press. He has been a visiting critic at MICA, RISD, and Yale University. Munro is an Associate Professor at Otis College of Art and Design and Advisor, and Chair Emeritus at Vermont College of Fine Arts.