Outlines of Color

Take a journey back over 100 years ago to the turn of the 20th century as sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois presented the American Negro Exhibit and his data visualizations at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Du Bois’ transcendent works provided an important look into the lives of Black people in America after three decades of emancipation through groundbreaking data gathering and brilliant artistry. Outlines of Color is an 8-part series featuring accounts by scholars, authors, and experts of Du Bois who reflect on the impact of the drawings and how Du Bois used data to illustrate and debunk scientific racism at the time.

Presented by The Narrative Project and Artspace New Haven.

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Episode 1 – State of the Nation: The Turn of the 20th Century

In the first episode of Outlines of Color, Narrator Aaron Johnson recounts the world view of the Black community at the turn of the 20th century. Listen as the dominant narrative, steeped in racism and backed by false, scientific beliefs, became a driving force for W.E.B. Du Bois’ attempt to change the views of American and European scholars.



Episode 2 – The Scholar from Great Barrington

In the second episode of Outlines of Color, Aaron dives into Du Bois’ early years growing up in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and his experiences with racism and legal segregation through the use of Jim Crow laws while a student at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.



Episode 3 – More than Typical Students

In episode three of Outlines of Color, Aaron begins to pull back the layers of how Du Bois gathered information that would be used to create the data visualizations, his relationship with Thomas Calloway, and the vital role students from Atlanta University, one of the earliest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), specifically played in gathering the data.



Episode 4: Exposition Universelle: The Exhibit of American Negroes

In episode four of Outlines of Color, Du Bois arrives in Paris, France for the 1900 Exposition. What are the sights and sounds? More importantly, the beauty of the works from the American Negro Study is causing a stir and standing out.


Episode 5 – The Georgia Negro: A Social Study

In episode five of Outlines of Color, we look at what made the state of Georgia interesting as a case study. Aaron goes into greater depth with our contributors about the drawings, photos, and plates and how information was gathered by Black college students sent to Georgia. 

Episode 6 – Du Bois’ Innovative Modern Art

In episode six of Outlines of Color, Aaron speaks with our contributors about the radical, artistic styling used by Du Bois and his students and how the drawings were decades ahead of their time.

Episode 7 – Du Bois: The Modernist

In episode seven of Outlines of Color, the conversation continues with a dive into the modern aesthetics Du Bois uses in the two sections of the exhibition, “A Series of Statistical Charts Illustrating the Condition of the Descendants of Former African Slaves Now Resident in the USA,” and “The Georgia Negro.”

Episode 8 – How We View Data Today?

In the final episode, Aaron looks at the impact that Du Bois and his works have to this day and how data gathering and data integrity continue to have a foothold in the US, specifically for Black people.


Trailer: Outlines of Color


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