I decided to use the spreadsheet data included in the PDF tutorial to compare several states’ enslaved population in 1850. I would have liked to have done 1860, on the verge of Civil War, but 1850 was the closest we had. I chose to compare border states in an attempt of visualizing which one had the highest number and how they compared. Border states are interesting because they were caught in-between the North and the South.
I was only able to compare Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, and Missouri. West Virginia wasn’t a state yet in 1850, so it wasn’t included in the spreadsheet and I couldn’t include it in my comparison. Originally, I was going to compare just two of them. I realized that it wasn’t hard to copy and paste data from the spreadsheet and I went ahead and found the other relevant states. I labeled the axes and chose colors I thought looked pretty.
While I like the bar chart, I don’t know how much I like the information displayed. I saw how low Delaware was and I realized, probably slower than I should have, that my data was in absolute values. They were totals, not at all relative to the size of the state. If I could have found values relative to the states’ sizes, like enslaved population per capita or something similar, that would have been a better way of comparing the data. There’s some benefit in seeing which states had the highest population of enslaved individuals, but it isn’t as satisfying. I still have questions, like is Missouri’s enslaved population lower because the population was lower as a whole? Did less people live there because it was farther West? Delaware is small, could that be why their number was so low?
I think the bar chart does a good job of portraying data to be compared like mine. A line graph wouldn’t have worked. A pie chart may have worked alright to compare which state had the largest share, but it might be misleading to imply that the whole of the enslaved population was in four states when they actually expand far past that.
I enjoyed working with flourish and would like to do another graph, this time to display relative values of enslaved populations in border states! It might actually be an interesting exercise to compare the absolute and relative data.