Blog Post #9-Data visualization

The research question that I developed was: What is the difference between enslaved and non-white freed males in both 1820 and 1850? I choose these years because they had the same census data recorded and the largest time period difference. Initially, I wanted to choose both men and women, however, the 1820 census did not combine the groups and I thought it may mess up my graphs if I added them together. At first, it was confusing because my mac wanted to take the census data from NHGIS and put it into the app-pages. I realized I just had to copy and paste it into Excel to find the data I needed. Once I had the data in excel I made a separate tab and added the categories non-white Freed and enslaved people for both 1820 and 1850. Then I uploaded this doc onto flourish and set the parameters for the data; I was quite comfortable with this part as I used this before for creating the data map in week six. Flourish displayed my data as a line graph in the beginning and it was very difficult to understand. After browsing each of the graphs and charts I choose to use a bar chart which was the easiest to read and understand. The only thing that I changed was moving the labels to the y-axis and increased the bar size to 1.25. The column chart would have been another effective option, the other ones like the pie and area charts had the data all jumbled and were hard to read.

My hypothesis was that 1850 would have a larger number of enslaved and a smaller number of non-white freed males compared to 1820. As we learned in class, there were a number of tactics, rules, and even laws that kept these individuals enslaved. In the visual, you can see that my hypothesis was incorrect where 1820 had a larger number of enslaved males and a smaller number of freed males. A potential reason why there were more slaves free in 1850 could be because of the efforts of many people to help slaves to escape and as time passed the more slaves achieved freedom. I still cannot comprehend why more males were enslaved in 1820 then 1850 and this could potentially lead to more research for me to complete. All in all, I really enjoyed this week’s assignment and if I get the chance I will use Flourish for another class and even other information I want to display.

One thought on “Blog Post #9-Data visualization

  1. These are fantastic visualizations and analyses about the data! I enjoyed reading about your workflow process of building this visualization, some of the challenges you encountered (and overcame), as well as toggling between graphs to find the best one. I agree with your analysis about the 1820-1850 comparison. It raises some serious questions, and as I noted in class, I want to look back to the original census data and cross-check it for errors. We know at the end of the Civil War, nearly 4 million enslaved people were freed, yet these census numbers reflect abnormally low populations. Although our visualizations might be honest for the data we added, there are some larger questions about the production of the census data itself. I think your hypothesis is correct in the sense that we know more people resisted and pursued their own freedom over the course of time; but I also wonder about the majority of African-descended people who were not part of the census at all. Thank you for sharing this detailed observations and reflections, excellent work!

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