After combing through the performances of H.T. Burleigh spreadsheet, we’ve spent the last two days determining the race of our recorded performers, so that we could create two separate map-able layers. Right off the bat, it was clear that black and white performers were programming Burleigh in more equal amounts than we anticipated. Using Social Explorer which Reed mentioned in her blog post from yesterday, I uploaded the new data for H.T. Burleigh performers by race onto a 1920’s census map. This map, which you can see below, represents the proportion of black residents per county with the darkest blue representing the highest proportion. White dots with a smaller black outline represent white performers, and white dots with a wider black outline represent black performers.

As user-friendly as Social Explorer was, I don’t think it will be a long term platform for this project. We need the user to be able to toggle on and off individual layers, as well as have more control over the map design. Luckily, it shouldn’t be too hard to access the census data using ArcGIS, which allows for more control over the functions of the map.

Here are a few interesting things about this map:

  1. You can click on each individual county and find out what the racial percentages were in 1920. This gets us closer to understanding cities than just look at State-to-State totals.
  2. It’s clear to see that both black and white performers were performing Burleigh pretty much all over the country.
  3. For a black performer, Burleigh performances usually took place in areas where the black population was at least 1% of the total population, whereas for a white performer the percentage could be lower than .025% of the total population.
  4. Black and white performers weren’t performing in the same venues unless it was a larger northern city like New York City or Chicago, this tells us that it is likely these were very different audiences who were hearing some of the same music.

Here are a few not-so-great things about this map:

  1. The census data is stuck in 1920. Just by clicking through some pop-ups our recorded performances span some 40 years during Burleigh’s life, so the representation of 1920’s racial population doesn’t match what it would’ve been in 1903 or 1946.
  2. Social Explorer doesn’t seem to show multiple data points at one location well. This is especially an issue in New York City at places like Carnegie Hall where it is crucial to be able to see the many people who performed Burleigh there.
  3. The representation of race on the map is by no means perfect. Reed and I went off newspaper accounts, photographs, census records and more to reach conclusions about the race of the performers but in many cases, these were educated guesses. The representation on the map doesn’t provide any room for ambiguity and simplifies race into a clear binary which is also disingenuous. For more context on our process, this is our spreadsheet which includes some notes and links that we factored into the decision.

All things considered, I am still very excited about this map! A huge missing component of our January maps was any spatial consideration about race, and this could be the beginning of figuring out how to make some map-centric arguments about what programming H.T. Burleigh meant to both the performer and to the audience. I’m curious as to what we can see that will complicate the map, such as adding the Fisk Jubilee Singer tours and looking at segregated spaces, particularly in the South.

Yay maps!