The prominent civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois was also a historian and sociologist—a background that led him to a firm belief in the revolutionary power of empirical data. In 1900, Du Bois showed that he also had a talent for visualizing that data—as seen in a series of experimental infographics he created for an exhibition at the World’s Fair in Paris.
The hand-drawn infographics were part of “The Exhibit of American Negroes”—curated by Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and the lawyer Thomas J. Calloway—which set out to depict black life in America after the Civil War. The exhibition included 500 photographs and 200 books on display, as well as the more than 60 charts that Du Bois created with the help of his sociology students at Atlanta University (today known as Clark Atlanta University). The infographics have been in the public domain for years, thanks to the Library of Congress, which last year digitized a sizable chunk of the collection. They are divided into two different groups: one illustrating statistics on African-Americans across the United States, and the other focused solely on Georgia.