Blog 8 Naegele

With the recent development of lynchings now in law considered a federal crime after so long it seems very topical to discuss maps and their relations to race. America has a very long and dark history with race, there are still many unresolved issues that run rampant in this country that are related to racism. As the article points out there are still many issues such as high incarceration rates among black men in America. It seems hard to justify the numbers in any capacity when it comes to this issue.

Personally, I think the article brings up a very necessary point that no matter how unbiased we think we are still influenced by the culture around us. This was thoroughly proven by the Twitter example of how easy it is to be influenced by bias. There is no real way to be truly unbiased the best way I think is described is by being critical and deliberate in the choices you would make as a mapmaker. This idea though has to be backed up by research and through analysis of the point that you are trying to make. The Racial Terror Lynchings is a good example of a map that had some research but not fully realized intention. The article is great to point out the usage of red to in some ways invoke the image of a blood-soaked America via racial lynchings but falls short of a deeper meaning or message.

Racial Terror Lynchings map, dark background with red blood-like data

The use of a choropleth map is not appropriate for this type of data. It makes the map too general and in many ways less distinctive from the Map of White Supremacy’s Mob Violence that uses data dots. They both are able to show data but you lose a lot of information compared to using individual data.

Again Map of White Supremacy’s mob violence, Historical background of St. Louis

Both of the maps are interactive which is a great addition to a normally static image. The ability to click and interact with more information is deeply necessary when dealing with a topic as complex as lynching and racism in America. I believe that the color schemes for both maps are good in different ways. They both grab attention and convey a stark contrast to the base image. Again Map of White Supremacy’s mob violence does this in a better way by having different colored and individually interactable dots. The information that each map gives is also different. I liked the videos and background that the Racial Terror Lynchings map had but for the sheer quality and diversity of information the Map of White Supremacy’s mob violence is much better. The use of the timeline as well as individual historical anecdotes is far superior as well.

This also comes into the topic of ethically displaying information. The map’s ability to showcase different races and times that the lynching happens as well as historical context is what makes it more ethical. It allows someone who is interacting with the map to see the sources and form their own opinions based on the data. This makes it more ethical in my opinion as it gives the most accurate picture of the context of the map and does its best to be transparent about the information. Overall it is hard to convey and make an ethical map with complex issues such as racism. Mainly as a focus on doing as much research as possible and being transparent about your sources along with deliberate choices is a good start to making an ethical map.

Parker Blog Post 8

Monroe & Florence Work
Lynching in America
Digital Humanities Quarterly

What I wanted to touch on in my blog was the main difference between how the data was presented in my opinion. Before we get to the differences, I wanted to touch on the best parts and the parts that I think deserve some criticism.

First, looking at the Monroe and Florence map I wanted to point out a couple things I liked from this map that emphasized the thematic meaning behind it. First, I’d like to point out the difference between the white and the green background. I’m still not exactly sure what this implies, however I assumed that this was the line of territories in the United States versus official states in the United States. Second, I really liked how they categorized the dots of lynchings in the United States by race. I found this very informative to understanding different areas in the United States as we learn and understand the types of people that were tragically lynched in our history. Another aspect that I really enjoyed about this map is how you are able to drag the timeline to focus on however big or small you want to see the timeline. In my screenshot above, I used the years 1848 until 1965 to give a bigger picture that would see the lynchings in America on a macro level throughout the course of our history.

One aspect of this thematic map that I thought could be improved is the storytelling of the map. To me, this map just seems like the author has a lot of data that can be dated in history, but you have to paint the story yourself. While this could be useful for finding what you are looking for, an audience member that doesn’t have background knowledge but wants to be informed could have a hard time performing analysis on this map without some additional digging. Another component of this map that I thought could be improved in its thematic state was the biography that the author decided to use for the people that were lynched. For most of the biographies it doesn’t tell a story or what happened rather it reads like here is x person and they were this race that was lynched in this year. I just think it could do a better job of enticing the reader to continue to read the stories and understand why it is important that we see who was lynched and are questioning why.

Next I would like to look at the Lynching in America map. What I liked most about this map was that you could clearly see the story that was being painted for the audience. I think ultimately it is pretty clear the author wants you to see how red some of the counties are that mean that lynching occurred more frequently than other states. Naturally when we look at this map, our eyes gravitate towards the southeast, and rightfully so they had the most amount of lynchings. This fits well into the authors thematic idea that to highlight the importance or nature of what they are trying to show, the more you want it to stick out. Another aspect about this map that I liked about this map that tied into my first point was the ability to zoom into counties. As someone who was born and raised in Nebraska, I would have never guessed two out of the three counties that had a lynching were Otoe and Cherry, but that’s why we have maps and data like this to help us understand more of the communities around us.

One aspect of this map that I didn’t necessarily agree with in the grand overview of the map was how the map didn’t really challenge me, the reader, to ask my own questions. This map, unlike the previous one told me a story and conclusion and never really left me wondering my own questions. Such as who was lynched, why they were lynched, what would the counties look like if we adjusted the time person, and more. Another aspect that I thought could be improved was inversing the dark red and the lighter red. In my experience seeing a darker red implies more of or worse than a lighter color. It wasn’t until I started exploring the map that I realized light and bright red was closer to zero than dark red.

Ultimately I think a lot of the similarities and differences between this map can be boiled down to the perception in lynchings in our history. Often times we look back at the southeast of the country and think about Jim Crow era and the laws that were established then. However what the author is trying to convey is by not including the data points of everyone, we are missing the point with structural racism that occurred in this time period. By having more data of all the races that were lynched, were are able to perform better analysis and make more profound conclusions looking back at history.

Student Weekly Post – Jeal

Maps are not simply representations of the land and sea. They can be deep exploratory visual depictions of complex social, economic, and political factors which can span cities, states, and even countries. The delivery of these depictions can also influence the way these concepts are understood and and carried on. Factors such as the colors used, the base map chosen, and even the the orientation/ position of any given map can influence the perceptions of the viewer. In their article titled “Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects”, Katherine Hepworth and Christopher Church examine these ideas on influence through variations in map depiction. Specifically, they examine two distinct interactive maps created by organizations focused around bringing awareness to violent crimes against minorities and people of color due to Americas long history of racism. These being “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” by the Equal Justice Initiative and Google, and “Map of White Supremacy Mob Violence” by Monroe Work Today. Through their analysis of these works they find what they call “racism in the machine”, a phrase describing the inherent ability for the way in which we use digital mapping tools to unknowing create racial or informational biases regardless of our data or intentions. It is because of this, that care and careful planning must go into every cartographic choice as these visual decisions can “shape users understandings of represented peoples and places”.

Reading through their analysis of these maps I found myself agreeing with many of the claims and ideas. Though not stated explicitly, many of the design choices whether they be color, labeling, or even area of focus can subtly influence the viewer into potentially coming to conclusions they wouldn’t have normally.

Screenshot of “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” by EJI

Maps such as the one above give the viewer a sense of drama and importance. And in truth rightly so, as lynching and racial violence was an incredibly real and horrifying part of African-American history. Yet while true, this map gives us a narrow view of what is seemingly represented as an all encompassing visualization of “Racial Terror”, when in truth it only focuses on one racial minority. On my first viewing on this map, I to didn’t even stop to considered what other races and ethnicities were being under represented. The choice of wording and dramatic shift in colors inadvertently drew me into believing that this map represented all the relevant data without it even needing to say it. It was only through the analysis and comparison of our second map that I was able to get a full understanding of how maps can influence our own perceptions.

Screenshot of “Map of White Supremacy’s Mob Violence” by Monroe Work Today
Closer detail of “Map of White Supremacy’s Mob Violence” by Monroe Work Today

In comparison to our previous map of racial violence this map seems a lot more all encompassing. We see five major minority groups being represented and the focus this time is truly nationwide. Instead of utilizing a choropleth, these map makers instead plot each individual person as a point. As you begin to explore and zoom in on the map a list of names will appear on the right of the screen, offering the names and dates of all the points currently displayed. Specifically clicking a point on the map will give you the name and date of death of the individual, as well as a brief description of the events leading up to their death. Compared to our previous map this one offers much more detail and depth in not only a historical and factual sense, but also a representative sense. It is a map which does as it says and wholely represents White Supremacist Mob violence nation wide. It even goes so far as to offer the viewer the ability to examine the information and data themselves to come to their own conclusion on the assertions presented.

While both of these maps work to shed light on Americas violent and sordid history in regards to race and ethnicity, both work in markedly different ways. Our first map specifically speaks to the African-American struggle with racial violence, choosing stark colors and an emphasis on the American south to convey its message. While our second takes a broad look at all racial violence nationwide and gives in depth details and information to support its claims. While both are useful and give and important messages, the one thing I would suggest is for our first map of racial violence towards African-Americans to more effectively say that’s what its doing. And also to potentially offer more information and substance that the viewer might be able to see exactly what is being mapped. All in all these are useful maps in understanding racial tensions and issues in historic and modern America.

Blog 8 Eller

There are certainly several implications with mapping history. The United States, as well as most countries, has a deep history with racism. It is a sensitive subject that takes much caution when discussing. And as maps go, there often times aren’t words to give great descriptions. In a map, there is the something that the author is trying to convey and at times, the reader may not see the same thing and may think that the map is trying to convey something completely different.

The first difference in the maps that the article mentions is their mapping of lynchings in the West. The maps tell similar stories when it comes to the events that occurred in the South, obviously. The major difference exists in California. The racial terror map only identifies that there were 2 reported lynchings. On the white supremacy map, it tells a very different story as it shows a lot more violence occurring.  While the Racial Terror Lynchings map only maps the lynchings of African Americans, the white supremacy map is covering any lynchings or riots where African Americans, Hispanics, and any other minorities. The racial terror doesn’t paint a very accurate picture of just how violent and terrorizing things could. Yes, it is clear that much racial violence occurred in the South. Many people didn’t need a map to know that, but if they were to look at the map, they might come to the conclusion that the South was really the only place it happened. As for the white supremacy map, I think it spreads a more accurate message of California as well as other western states. Maps like these that sometimes convey conflicting information can be dangerous due to the fact that they don’t project the full story. It is important to know exactly what one is looking at before jumping to conclusions.   It also states, “Map of White Supremacy Mob Violence uses multiple compelling strategies to both humanize the data it represents, and to contextualize it in the societal racism and discourses of white supremacy in the United States.” There are so many facets that can be added to simple maps and give them much more information and context to what was going on during the time. It is super interesting that the discussion drew the conclusion that the “lack of links to sources give a concerning impression that African-American lynchings were the complete record of lynchings in the United States for the purposes of racial terror.” It is just another example of the importance of fully knowing what is being displayed and in what context.

There are other aspect of maps that may have racial undertones. For example, when looking at both the lynching map next to the white supremacy, America in the white supremacy is illustrated as covered white and signals the lynchings and riots with orange. On the other hand, the racial terror lynching map has the states covered in black with the deaths shown using red. I don’t think the article addresses this, but when mapping that have to do with race, ethnicity, etc. it is in much better taste to use neutral colors when depicting this type of information.

As for my final project, although it takes places in the middle to late 1800’s, I feel that there aren’t any ethical implications to necessarily consider when graphing the railroads and the their effect on western cities and towns.  If I come across such things when doing more research on train towns, then it is something that I will be aware of and mention within my story map. The maps have made me consider not only implications that may exist on my own maps that I create, but at the maps, data, and articles that I view when creating my story map. I don’t plan on finding such things regarding the creating and expansion of the railways, but there may be certain ethical implications that exist in the newly developed and growing towns of Cheyenne, Denver, etc. that I can be aware of when making my map.

Blog Week 11– Binder

The article, “Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects” by Katherine Hepworth and Christopher Church compares “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” by the Equal Justice Initiative and Google to the “Map of White Supremacy Mob Violence” by Monroe Work Today. By first walking through each of these projects separately, Hepworth and Church give readers a strong understanding of what the projects look like. While the “Lynching in America” project is focused only on lynchings of African-Americans, the Monroe Work Today project displays all racial lynchings within the United States. The “Lynching in America” map uses a choropleth to make some states stand out more than others, while “Map of White Supremacy Mob Violence” uses dots to mark each individual lynching. The article highlights how one map is primarily focused on the SouthEast while the other has a more complete picture of the entire country. Because “Lynching in America” is only mapping lynchings of African-Americans, places like California look like they had very few lynchings. The “Map of White Supremacy Mob Violence” marks lynchings of people of several different races and shows how states in the West were not free of race-based violence that the “Lynching in America” project almost suggests. Hepworth and Church discuss how this is an issue because the title “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” is expansive and does not hint that the project’s scope does not cover lynchings of all  races of people. This is problematic since lynchings and racial violence against non-African-Americans outside of the South is often overlooked. “Map of White Supremacy Mob Violence” gives a more complete image of racial violence because it includes data from all race groups and is not focused on the South. Hepworth and Church talk about how creating a choropleth map is beneficial to the Equal Justice Initiative which is trying to draw connections between past violence and present day. While this provides a clearer argument, it highlights some parts of the country in ways that distort some of the information. Hepworth and Church conclude their evaluation of the two lynching projects by making the broader argument that the digital humanities need to be aware of new developments in the data sets they are visualizing and not just visualize familiar arguments but give a more complete picture that may not look like what was expected.

“I don’t Care Whether you did or didn’t do it but I’m make sure you be found guilty for it”

Anthony Ray Hinton on “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” by the Equal Justice Initiative

When I went through the “Lynching in America Project,” the white text on the black screen that appears after the first scroll only talks about racial violence against African Americans, but the overall title combined with this information fails to dispel the idea that this data is the only data about racial lynchings. The stories on this page and the videos help personalize the data and give it an emotional element. Listening to someone talk about a family member’s lynching while looking at images of the tree they were hanged from forces viewers to form an emotional connection to the data presented on the map and helps people to agree with the argument the Equal Justice Initiative is making. The site includes several videos of stories of specific lynchings in order to help convince viewers of the continued impacts of this racial violence today. The fancy graphics help to quickly show viewers their argument and make it seem more convincing because of the quality of the digital aspect of the project. While there is nothing wrong with providing only information about African-Americans and the racial violence they experienced, the title of the project suggests something more expansive, and the project never acknowledges the communities they left out while gathering the racial violence data.

“Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” by Equal Justice Initiative
“Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” by Equal Justice Initiative

“Map of White Supremacy’s Mob Violence” by Monroe Work Today

The “Map of White Supremacy’s Mob Violence” by Monroe Work Today does not focus on individual stories as much as the Equal Justice Initiative’s project but shows lynchings across several different racial groups. It still has a very similar argument, but gives a more complete picture and allows viewers to take time to come to their own conclusions. This map even asks viewers to ask critical questions and not blindly believe what they are being shown, which helps to make it more credible as it is asking for criticism and someone interested in questioning their motives.

Both maps show lynchings in the United States. One map only shows lynchings of African Americans and is trying to direct viewers to a conclusion, while the other map is much more open to exploration and allowing viewers to question what they see. If an argument can not hold up to very much questioning and has to rush its viewers through, is it the best argument to make? By not narrating what viewers are looking at, and telling them to ask questions, the Monroe Works Today project shows that it is more confident in its argument and has less questionable details than the Equal Justice Initiative project might have.

Parker Blog Post #7

Wheat Per Square Mile 1900

This reading and topic were very interested to me because as a Nebraska I was taught about the dust bowl growing up in school so much. I appreciate the reading and map because understanding the underlying layers and themes of the dust bowl has helped the federal government prevent another cataclysmic dust bowl from happening again.

One of the first things I would like to point out this week is a quote from the reading: “The plow-up of the Great Plains was the most important ecological change to emerge out
of the shift from Indian to Euro-American land use”. Early on we can see the stage being set for a major dust bowl to wreak havoc on the United States.

We can see evidence of this quote from the graphs at the top of the post. Starting in 1880 we see that much of the midwest is covered with grass that has not been “plowed up”. Looking at the Wheat per Square mile map in 1900, we can see that Wheat covered a vast amount of fertile land in the great plains and was thriving. Fast forward to the 1925 and 1935 maps, we can see a significant chunk of this grass cover less and less of the land. The plowing however did not happen overnight, Cunfer says “Plowing the Great Plains for crop agriculture did not happen quickly. To plow just a third of the grassland was a Herculean task that took millions of farmers like Bartholomew-and
their horses-more than half a century to accomplish.”

Another contribution to the Dust Bowl happening was the drought. We can see that not only was there plowing happening in the great plains, but also not enough precipitation. Cunfer goes on to say: “Rain, or lack of it, is the driving factor in Great Plains land use, and
this is evident in the 1920 map of unplowed land.” Looking at our map in 1920, we see that the land is not plowed very heavily, however, five years after that grass was plowed a ton.

Overplowing the grass as well as a drought were two of the main reasons why the Dust Bowl of 1930 happened, and I am glad to see the federal government and farmers learn and adjust to this to prevent it from happening again. Such as ending the homestead act, not over-plowing grass, and keeping healthy irrigation for the land.

Blog post #7

The readings and maps for this weekn are centered around agriculture and its growth. Specifically we will be looking at a map created by Henry Gannett and On the Great Plains written by Geoff Cunfer. Cunfer depicts the growth of plowed land in the united states leading up to the dust bowl, while Gannett shows the land used for wheat prodiuction across the United States. We will start with discussing Gannett’s map.

Gannett’s map showcases the entire Unites States and its areas of wheat production. A suprising amount of American land is inculded in this figure and it suprised me just how much wheat must have been being grown at the time. I am not sure if the map is still accurate but I would guess the land in the midwest are mostly still farms gorwing this crop. The eastern half of the Unites States is almost completely covered by wheat production while the western half has sections of growth but nothing compared to the east. I assume this is due to the soil and climate of the west and this map makes it very clear there are some remarkable differences between the two halves in terms of crop production. Another trend I noticed was that majoir mounitna ranges are displayed by their lack of wheat production compared to other areas. You can clearly see where the Rocky and Appalachian Mountians are and I think thats a really interesting detail. Of course, it is obvious why mountuans dont work well as farmland.

Gannett’s map

Now lets discuss Cunfer’s essay and more specifically his maps. Cunfer included several maps in his paper showcasing the growth of plowable land at the end of the 19th century to the end of the 20th. During this time, farmers pushed and pushed the limits of the land even to the Rocky Mountians but wou;d eventually suffer the consequences for this. The Dust Bowl was an anful natural event which caused America’s farmland and farmers to be crippled by huge and contant dust stroms and unusable growing land. The diagrams show the scaling back of the used land in the years to come after the 1950’s where it reached its furtheest. These maps only depict the midwest but when comparing them to the Gannett map you can see how they mirror each other and support each others data.

Blog 7 Eller

This is a topographic map made in 1903 that depicts the production of wheat per square m

This is a topographic map made in 1903 that depicts the production of wheat per square mile in the United States. It was made my Henry Gannett. The cartographic elements such as the use of color to emphasize where the most wheat is produced within the United States. More precisely, you notice how much of the country’s wheat is produced in central America in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. It is even more interesting looking at this map after knowing what transpires in about 30 years with the effects of the Dust Bowl. It makes sense how the economy was severely damaged when not only wheat but several other crops were mostly farmed and produced in the same areas.

As you can see the darker shaded green areas resemble that more wheat is produced than areas with lighter to no green. On Cunfer’s On the Plains pages you can see the amount of grassland that exists in the regions of Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas throughout the years from 1880-1997. Gannett’s map is situated in between these illustrations from Cunfer. I’m not sure if Cunfer is really arguing anything but just displaying where what is being farmed in the early 1900’s. As I said earlier, other can interpret why the Dust Bowl was so detrimental when looking at the percentages of grassland in this area along with all the crops being produced in these states. Although Gannett’s map doesn’t depict change over time, pages 30-32 of On the Great Plains you can see the changes in counties being plowed.

I don’t think the map can do a much better an conveying its message, but I do know that there are plenty of other crops that are grown in those states, so I think there can be other colors and other crops incorporated into the same map.

Student Weekly Post – Jeal

Farming was, and some may argue still is, the back bone of America. Through farming there developed the ability and insensitive to push out and colonize the American West; as-well as offering a veritable bread basket for the developing nation. Our maps today give insight into this relatively fast and intense push into the American Midwest, and offers a deeper understanding behind its eventual regression.

The three specific maps above were pulled from Geoff Cunfers piece On the Great Plains. They depict the percentage of county area across 10 states which remained as natural grassland prairie, un-plowed and un-utilized for farming. Cunfer goes onto explain that between 1880 and 1930, American farmers would go on to plow more than 100 million acres of diverse grass land. This rabid agricultural expansion westward would strip the great plains of much of its natural sustainability. The severity of these 50 years of expansion being fairly effectively surmised through Cunfers statement, “Plowing is the
ecological equivalent of genocide.”(Cunfer, 16) Looking back at the 1880 and 1935 choropleth plow percent maps, we can clearly see how they aid in visualizing this “ecological genocide” with the white farmland steadily encroaching on the darker grassland territory. The progression from the 1935 map to the 1997 map goes on to show a progressive change in not only the American reliance on agriculture but also the opinions of American society in general, with conservation and sustainability becoming focal points. The maps elements lend to an ease of understanding, the contrast between the darker grassland regions and light farm regions effectively show rise and fall.

Section of Henry Gannets 1903 Wheat Production map

An aid to better understanding the spread of agriculture nationwide can be seen in Henry Gannets 1903 map of wheat production per square mile. Similar to Cunfers maps we see a stark line of high production farm areas separated from low production areas along the mid-line of the country. Yet, while on the surface these maps can be compared as simple historic location data. What they also represent is a very basic form of climatological and geographic data. Areas which show high wheat production which were converted into farm land would indicate regions with potentially prevalent rainfall/ water sources, as well as fertile relatively flat soil conditions and landscapes. While these maps don’t directly indicate these environmental aspects, they serve as interesting tools in examining what exactly is shown when a map is created.

These maps function as interesting insights into not only early westward American expansion, but also how this expansion had a very integrated interplay with the surrounding environment.


Maps of the percent of grassland over the years 1925-1940

We’ve looked at a lot of choropleth maps but we have not really seen this use of them. The idea of using multiple choropleths over a range of years to show change is a visually interesting one. It is very easy to see how over short periods of time the use of land changed. I particularly liked how “Pasture and Plows” went into detail about why the maps changed over time. In my first look at the maps, I had wondered why they did not fully plow the land and why in 1935 was the land more plowed than any other previous year. This is detailed in the chapter by land being medicated by a few factors and the first being water or rainfall. The idea was that farmers were only able to plow so much land a year based on what land was suitable to be plowed. This was as the book described around 50% useable the other half unusable and dedicated to a pasture or animals or hay. I also liked the use of Bartholomew to describe what a farmer was and how they affected the land: “Fully one-third of the Bartholomew farm was never plowed or put to crop use but remained in native grass cover. In most years the family devoted nearly half of its acreage to pasture. The pattern holds for other farmers in the area”. The other interesting point was in 1935 when farmers discovered that yes you could plow too much for the amount of rainfall, soil, and temperature to handle. This resulted in a quick drawback in plowing. The other factor was the creation of the CRP and the public support for conservation in the late 20th century. This is why we see such a steady shift away from plowing yet still have a constant amount plowed due to the federal incentives to keep up production.

1903 census map of the amount of wheat per square mile in the US.

I can also see why it focused on this area of the United States as shown in the census in 1903 that it was the highest producing area of wheat. Interestingly they are also both choropleths. I liked the use of green more than black and white as it draws the eyes in more and when talking about agriculture green seems like a fairly good choice. I personally have never really thought about the history of growing in the US. I found the idea that farming was really done only a few acres at a time interesting and it amazes me just how much technologies have helped us up production in the US. I also can see a connection in that both of these maps are directly affected by the amount of water available either through rainfall or freshwater like the great lakes.