Libraries Host Book Launch for ‘W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits’

Whitney Battle-Baptiste
Whitney Battle-Baptiste
Brit Rusert
Brit Rusert

The UMass Amherst Libraries hosted a book launch on Nov. 2 celebrating the release of "W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America," co-authored by Whitney Battle-Baptiste, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Center and associate professor of anthropology, and Britt Rusert, associate professor of Afro-American studies.

The book collects the complete set of Du Bois’s colorful charts, graphs and maps presented at the 1900 Paris Exposition. The graphics represent data gathered by Du Bois that make visible a wide spectrum of black experience. As literary and cultural critic Maria Popova wrote, the 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.'” 

At the event, Battle-Baptiste and Rusert spoke of the power of the images to shape understanding of life in America at the turn of the century as well as their unique beauty and artistic value.

On display at the event, held in the Du Bois Center, were 10 thread paintings by artist Diana Weymar representing some of Du Bois’s graphics.

The book is available through the Princeton Architectural Press and is included in The New York Times2018 Holiday Gift Guide.