W.E.B. Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois in full, was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. After completing graduate work at the University of Berlin and Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University.
After three decades of emancipation, the gains made by African-Americans, those that existed at all, presented a decidedly mixed picture about the state of racial progress in the country. After graduating with a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, W.E.B. Du Bois, the prominent African-American intellectual, sought a way to process all this information showing why the African diaspora in America was being held back in a tangible, contextualized form.
To accomplish this goal, Du Bois turned to the burgeoning field of sociology. Sociology’s scope in history, statistics, and demographics held the potential to quantifiably reveal "life within the Veil," as Du Bois called the structural forces of oppressions that separated black and white populations, whether that came to educational attainment, voting rights, or land ownership.
After embarking on a sprawling sociological study of African-Americans living in Philadelphia, he was hired as a professor at the historically black Atlanta University in 1897 where he would be asked to contribute a social study about African-American life to the Exposition Universelle, the Paris World Fair of 1900.
For Du Bois, the show presented both an opportunity and a challenge. Part of his contribution was carefully curating 500 photographs to show a nuanced snapshot of what life was like for black Americans. While he wanted to use the photographs to undercut racist stereotypes about African-Americans, the images alone did not relay the underlining ways that the institution of slavery continued to impact African-American progress in the country. So he set about making approximately 60 carefully handmade data visualizations, to dictate, in full, vibrant color, the reasons why black America was being held back. *
So far, I’ve developed 3 regular weights based on the infographics. Long-term, I’ll be creating a set of condensed and extended widths, but for the moment, I’ll be focusing on the regular and back italics (pictured in the second slider).
The current family is being used throughout this site, and consists of 564 characters per weight with a total of 11 stylistic sets, many of which you can see in the images above.