Week 9: Visualizations of Data using Flourish

(I’ve been trying to copy the HTML of the bar graph to embed here under the text tab, but I’m really confused as to why it isn’t showing up. I can see the icon that says it should be there, but it doesn’t show up from what I can see. I’ve included the link to the public Flourish graph. Hopefully that’s okay!)

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.

One thought on “Week 9: Visualizations of Data using Flourish

  1. This link is perfectly fine! How weird that the embed link didn’t work– there might be something wrong with the code of that specific visualization. Anyway, your data visualization looks fantastic! I think your research inquiry to focus on what would become the border states of the Civil War provided a unique perspective for approaching this data. I understand your concern about Delaware, and I appreciate your acknowledgement of the issue regarding state size versus population. In this case, a percentage of the total would be helpful and makes me wonder if the stacked column graph, which shows percentages, would address this problem. Because you have only one column of data per state, it would probably appear the same as it is now (I’m guessing).

    As for next steps regarding this graph, there is a LOT historical context to consider when analyzing this data, which makes it even more exciting! Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland stand out as some of the most contentious border states during the Civil War and this graph gives us a window foreshadowing why they would become so contentious. Missouri’s positionality was always a concern and the passage of the Missouri Compromise (1820) and its overturning in the Compromise of 1850 point to its importance in the debates of expanding slavery westward. Maryland was also important because it surrounded the federal government seat in D.C. and Lincoln declared martial law in the state of Maryland to protect it from falling to the South during the war (although a strategic decision, it was constitutionally questionable). Lastly, Kentucky occupied a space that was constantly split between Union and Confederate forces during the war. Both Lincoln and Jefferson Davis (the president of the Confederacy) were born in Kentucky and there were several key battles that took place there.

    I’m glad that you enjoyed this process and I hope my comments here can direct you on how to expand this project even more. Excellent work and observations!

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