Du Bois used maps in his research to represent demographic patterns in the Seventh Ward. Our interactive mapping system uses GIS technology not available to him that allows you to see who lived at each property in the Seventh Ward and to create thematic maps based on household composition, occupation, and homeownership.
The literal centerpiece of The Philadelphia Negro was a pull-out parcel map showing the location of all black households, color-coded based on their social class status. He based his assessments on his findings from his door-to-door survey of black households in the Seventh Ward.
Similar to the maps created by Charles Booth for his earlier study of poverty in London, Du Bois categorized residents according to the following groups:
Grade 1 (red): The “Middle Classes” and those above
Grade 2 (green): The Working People, Fair to Comfortable
Grade 3 (blue): The Poor
Grade 4 (black): Vicious and Criminal Classes
This map and classification system is the inspiration for our board game and the mural as well as our online interactive mapping system. The map was remarkable at the time in that it used systematically-collected and analyzed empirical data to demonstrate that there was a social class structure within the black community. Du Bois created his map without the aid of geographic information systems (GIS), the central component of websites like Google Maps and applications like Google Earth and an important tool for social science research. But Du Bois valued maps for the same reasons we do today—because visualizing spatial demographic and economic patterns is critical to understanding what opportunities and constraints affect individuals.
We recreated the survey Du Bois conducted and the map he created using individual-level data from the 1900 US Census and GIS. The Census Bureau protects individual names and addresses in the data it collects for 72 years, then makes the manuscript data available for family genealogists and researchers. We created a database with information about the first and last name, relationship to head of household, age and place of birth, place of birth for both parents, occupation, able to read and write, and able to speak English for all residents of the Seventh Ward for whom census data were collected. We then matched these records to a digital map we created of properties in the Seventh Ward at that time to create an interactive GIS map. We also linked data about births and deaths that we collected from the City of Philadelphia Archives. Our friends at Azavea, Inc. then developed an online application from the database and map we created.