Week 11 – Mapping Ethics

Even before reading the ethics and analysis article, I agreed that the White Supremacy Mob Violence map was a better visual representation of the dynamics at play, although there were a lot of reasons for that that didn’t occur to me. When I looked it over, one of the main things I noticed was the level of detail. The White Supremacy Mob Violence map begins with an introduction to the concept of lynchings, the structures that motivated racial violence, and the varying methods that have been used to collect and map data about it. It also invites the reader to think critically about the map and ask questions about the data. Once you’re looking at the map itself, you can change the visualization to focus on different time periods and places, as well as click on individual points to read more about them. This provides a level of detail that doesn’t sacrifice the map’s impact on a wider scale; even when you are all the way zoomed out and haven’t selected a specific time period, you can make out the general patterns of where and to whom racial violence occurred. The concentration of black victims in the south and latinx victims in the southwest, for example, is obvious without seeming universal.

While I agree with the article’s analysis that the color choices in the Racial Terror Lynching map make it seem like lynching was almost exclusive to the South, I do think they’re effective in other ways. The red stands out very well against the dark background and suggests the right tone of alarm or violence for the subject matter. This map is also not completely without detailed accounts. It utilizes short, engaging multimedia presentations to provide detail on a few representative cases. I think that method does the job alright, even if it’s not as good as the level of detail on the other map. The main problems with this one were those discussed in the article: it focuses too much on the South, isn’t very up-front with its methods or scope, and doesn’t use normalized data.

I like the method outlined in the article on visualization ethics. It makes sure ethics are considered at every step of the process and decreases the likelihood of the end product being misleading. I also agree that interdisciplinarity is a valuable way to make sure that a project is both ethical and effective. The one thing I wasn’t a fan of was the idea that the humanities need their own, new visualization methods because the existing ones are tied to colonial contexts. Yes, the article acknowledges that it’s often better to use data visualization methods people are familiar with, and yes, most of them were developed in a western colonial environment, but I don’t think charts and graphs themselves are a problem; they only become a problem when you choose the wrong type of chart for a specific topic or dataset, thus skewing the reader’s perception of what you’re trying to visualize. Traditional graphs work just fine for the humanities. Any gaps can be filled in by good captions or other accompanying text. The major strength of digital visualizations over printed ones, in this case, is the ability to incorporate those more detailed explanations into the map itself using pop-ups or links rather than having to put them on a separate page. they can live in the map, grounding them more strongly in physical space, and then dispensary when you go back to a larger scale.

In my final project, I don’t think I’ll have to consider the ethical concerns outlined in the article as much as I might if I were covering a different subject or using a different focus. The area I’m mapping is a single city park, albeit a big one, and I’m focusing on buildings and development rather than specific people or events. I’m not actually working with any datasets. I like the idea of including specific, personal stories in my map, much like in the White Supremacy Mob Violence project, but I’m not sure how feasible that is for a project of this scale. I’m not sure if I necessarily need to, with my focus being on the broader space and the ideology behind it. I think it’d probably be a good idea to include at least one personal account of one of the native people who was being exhibited at the fair in order to add in a sense of agency and make the story more impactful, but I’m not yet sure how to incorporate that.

I will need to pay careful attention to transparency in my methods, though. The historical maps I’m working from are sometimes incomplete, illegible, or missing context, which makes it hard to know for sure how to categorize every building without doing a level of research that isn’t feasible for a project of this scale. My main ethical consideration will be noting when I’m making assumptions about the purpose of a building.

Post No. 6 – Mapping Ghosts White as Snow

John Snow, On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, Map 1, 1855
Alexander Johnston, The geographical distribution of health & disease, in connection chiefly with natural phenomena. (with) Fever districts of United States & W. Indies, on an enlarged scale, 1856

These two maps were created to express similar arguments, this being disease is connected to x.  In John Snow’s case, the disease was cholera, and x was the pump on Broad Street. In Alexander Johnston’s case, the disease was consumption, rheumatism, yellow fever, dysentery, leprosy, typhus, &c. and x was their geographic location. While the structure of their arguments are the same, the subjects and the methods they used to present them lie on opposite ends of the same spectrum.

In 1855, John Snow published the 2nd Edition of On the Mode of Communication of Cholera. In this work, Snow included an enlarged map from his first edition with updated stats infamously known today as “John Snow’s Ghost Map”. “Map 1” served as a visualization of the locations of deaths by cholera and water pumps across the district of Soho, London. It was the first of its kind to display data like this and a straightforward aide in understanding the argument Snow made, that these deaths were somehow connected to the pumps.

Parish of St. James, 1855

When Snow’s research was published in 1855, it was unpopular. But before his research could fade into obscurity, Rev. Whitehead’s continued investigation into waterborne illness proved true with Map 1 being a major contributing factor. After this, variations of “Map 1” was reproduced for many publications such as the Report on the cholera outbreak in the Parish of St. James, Westminster, during the autumn of 1854 because of it’s straightforward visualization, catapulting it into fame and cementing Snow’s name in medical history.

The same might not be said for Alexander Johnston’s map. The Geographical distribution of Health & Disease, in Connection chiefly with Natural Phenomena was published in 1856. Its subject encompassed the entire world and every disease known to man within it at this time[kidding]. His goal was to map a correlation between the amount of deaths diseases caused and the climate of the region the disease impacted along with a varying number of other factors.

Johnston’s thematic map was hugely different from Snow’s reference map for many obvious reasons. A large component of this may be attributed to the enormous amount of information it depicts, from the statistical diagrams line the bottom of the page to the colors identifying the climates in different regions. Upon first glance, it is easy to compare Johnston’s map to the same fate Cooper’s map was described to have met in The Ghost Map reading.

” As exacting as Cooper’s map was, it ultimately had too much detail to make sense of the story… For a map to explain the true cause behind the Broad Street outbreak, it needed to show less, not more. “

– The Ghost Map, 193

While this statement was proven true when it came to the impact its complexity had on its re-printability and the ease of comprehension in it’s viewers, the global-encompassing nature of its subject made most of the maps additional information necessary to the argument.

Since it’s creation, Johnston’s holistic approach to the creation of this map has been celebrated as one of the pioneering maps that connected the disciplines of cartography and epidemiology. While detailed to the point of exhaustion, the additional graphs worked well to express the impact the same disease had on different cities across the world and inspired following generations of cartographers to look for additional information to put on maps like this.

Alexander Johnston, "The geographical distribution of health & disease, in connection chiefly with natural phenomena. (with) Fever districts of United States & W. Indies, on an enlarged scale.", 1856
John Snow, "On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, 2nd Edition", 1855
Steven Johnson, "The Ghost Map", 2006
The Cholera Inquiry Committee, "Report on the cholera outbreak in the Parish of St. James, Westminster, during the autumn of 1854", 1855
Leah R. Keith

Mapping Ethics Blog post- Marie Amelse

When reading and exploring the Equal Justice Initiative and then the Monroe & Florence Work Today websites they at first seem to be relaying the same message, with varying different minor details and framings, however “Racism in the Machine” Hepworth and Church do a great job on contrasting these two different visualizations and representations of racial violence from the dawn of the civil war onward. At first they do not seem that different from each other, but after digesting both and especially after also reading from Hepworths and Church’s analysis, you can see how stark the differences really are. In the end they presented and even chose data in different ways even when seemingly portraying the same idea.

Monroe & Florence Work were especially aware of sourcing and defining their data, and it is clear the current website also shares this sentiment. The Work’s were very deliberate in searching for the validity of lynchings, as a result this website is honest in communicating that their database is likely underreporting the incidents of lynching. The Work Today website also includes education information on different definitions of lynching.

Here, this window shows an option to show both a “Strict definition” and a “Broader definition”. Even within their website there is transparency that the same message end up looking very different based on definitions the statistics revolve around.

On the other hand the Equal Justice Initiative ( EJI) is not as clear on the definitions of what the graphs and statistics show. Although it is clear that the numbers focus on the deep south. Below is one of the main slides on the Lynching in America webpage. Interestingly in span of time which spanned over 70 years there was only “2 reported” lynchings in California and “1 reported” lynchings in Michigan. This contrasts with the data from the Work website which reports 26 for both states in that same time range under the “Broader definition”.

Above, is the Lynching map shown on the EJI website. As Hepworth and Church, the EJI has a strong emphasis on the deep south, almost portraying racism as clustered and almost solely being perpetrated in the South. Below is is a 100 year span from the Work website, which presents the continental US all together, and while the mob violence is concentrated in the South, it is shown to be an issue that is present throughout the U.S.

Another thing that was a variable that Hepworth and Church presented was even who these different data bases considered who lynchings could be perpetrated against. The Work Today website made it clear it was a racially motivated crime that could be committed by white mobs against any racial minority, EJI on the other hand sole focused on lynchings against African Americans. Can this mitigate historical violence against Native Americans, Asian-Americans, or other racial minorities? In this case it is especially important to take into account the larger goals of who creates these data sets. EJI, for instance is focused on fighting mass incarceration, and especially fight the inequality against Black Americans within the criminal justice system. The publisher of the Monroe & Florence Work Today website is #PlainTalkHistory, whose focus is to tell the multicultural and multiracial history of the US that can too oftenly be ignored in popular US history lessons. Knowing these things on the creators can add more context to the maps and messages they create.

Erin Buglewicz, Blog Post 8: Mapping & Ethics

Monroe Work, a pioneer in the field of sociology, confidently asserted, “In the end facts will help eradicate prejudice and misunderstanding, for facts are the truth and the truth shall set us free” [1]. However, individuals and organizations often manipulate or misuse facts to promote their own views. For this reason, it is important to approach historical data visualization from an ethical standpoint, but although there are ways in which one can attempt to avoid bias, it is virtually impossible to eliminate entirely. This is especially true for maps because even seemingly minor elements like color, symbols, and interactivity can influence how viewers interpret data.

In “Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects,” Katherine Hepworth and Christopher Church emphasized that to showcase data ethically, one must mitigate any harm to viewers and the subjects of a study as well as maximize the project’s ability to communicate information [2]. The authors then proposed an ethical visualization workflow that should be used when creating digital humanities projects, such as maps, to help eliminate bias and misrepresentations. The workflow introduces several steps that are part of one of three phases: pre-data collection, data curation and collection, and data visualizing and argumentation.

Ethical workflow proposed by Hepworth and Church.

By examining two mapping projects, Hepworth and Church were able to explain how researchers can apply this ethical approach to the creation and use of data visualizations. The first map that the authors analyzed was “Lynching in America: Racial Terror Lynchings,” created by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). This is a choropleth map showing the number of reported lynchings (of African Americans) across US counties between 1877 and 1950. 

“Lynching in America: Racial Terror Lynchings”

The map is visually striking. It uses a red color ramp to indicate the number of lynchings in each county, and against the dark background, this color indicates what it represents: bloodshed. Before even exploring the map and website, I was already well acquainted with EJI’s mission from previously reading Just Mercy and hearing the organization’s founder, Bryan Stevenson, speak in person at Creighton last year. Therefore, despite the map’s title suggesting otherwise, I was able to conclude that these lynchings only involved African Americans. When interpreting the map, it is important to know this background because it fuels EJI’s argument that historical violence and prejudice against blacks is at the foundation of their disproportionate representation within the current criminal justice system. Therefore, the map is merely a “promotional and advocacy tool” for EJI [2].

To most viewers, this map appears credible at first glance, especially as it is supported by Google, but on further inspection, it introduces some unethical implications. To begin with, it utilizes raw data, which is improper for a choropleth map. As Hepworth and Church noted, the number of lynchings in each county should be normalized against census population data [2]. This would eliminate any disproportionate representations of lynchings in each county. Moreover, this map also contains notable silences. As already mentioned, it solely focuses on African Americans who were lynched. The map is also limited by choices made during the data collection phase about what constitutes a “lynching.” The criteria chosen allowed EJI to create “a narrative around racial violence that excludes other minorities and other geographic locales” [2]. The map does, in fact, ignore much of the North and West, casting it in a dark color, and it primarily focuses the viewer’s attention on the South, which is bright red.

Hepworth and Church also examined “Map of White Supremacy’s Mob Violence,” a different map conveying similar but more nuanced data, which provided a better ethical visualization of racial lynching in the United States. This map, developed from research done by Monroe Work, has several key differences from the one produced by EJI that lend it greater credibility. To start, it is a complex and interactive dot density map, spanning from 1848 to 2021, which makes it relevant even in the contemporary era.

“Map of White Supremacy’s Mob Violence”

The aim of this map is arguably to “confront the user with the temporal and racial extent of white superiority-motivated lynchings, both qualities that are absent from the Racial Terrors Lynchings map” [2]. Thus, the scope of what this map covers is much larger, and it fills in gaps that the EJI did not cover. Most obviously, Work’s map includes the lynchings of several different races, not just African Americans. This demonstrates that racial violence was not limited to one group. 

Key for “Map of White Supremacy’s Mob Violence.”

These dots are much more widespread than lynchings represented on the EJI’s map, where they were mainly clustered in the South. Additionally, each dot represents a reported lynching, including the name, where available, of every person as well as the year the lynching occurred. This information is also accompanied by a link to sources that viewers can click on to discover more. In doing so, this incorporates a sense of humanity and greater credibility into the project that EJI’s map lacks.

Example of a lynching case included on “Map of White Supremacy’s Mob Violence.”

Therefore, this second map provides a better example of an ethical visualization of data. This difference is namely apparent in the two maps’ arguments and silences (or relative lack of), and this comparison demonstrates why Hepworth and Church’s proposed workflow is effective and practical.


[1] Work, Monroe, and Florence Work. “Map of White Supremacy’s Mob Violence.” Plain Talk History. https://plaintalkhistory.com/monroeandflorencework/explore/map2/#4/37.85/-99.5/0/18.

[2] Hepworth, Katherine, and Christopher Church. “Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects.” Digital Humanities Quarterly. Vol. 12, no. 4 (2018). http://digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/12/4/000408/000408.html.

[3] Equal Justice Initiative & Google. “Lynching in America: Racial Terror Lynchings.” https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/explore.

Isabel Blackford Week 11 Blog Post

The crime of lynching is something, although brutal, very unique to American history. When analyzing the maps given for this blog, even the larger surface level details were surprising to learn. For example when I think of the word “lynching” I often only think of the context in relation to African American and White tensions after slavery and before the civil rights movement. However by making a quick glance at the White Supremacy Mob Violence Map, it was make clear very fast that lynching is much more than just a two race conflict, and can affect any race although in certain areas is can be more prevalent for particular races (i.e. Latinx in California/West Coast and African Americans in the Deep South). Although lynching can happen to any race, it always involves race and is what drives lynching to occur.

In particular when areas have a large number of lynching’s occurring, those actions become normalized in the population and in Mississippi alone between 1877 and 1950 there were 656 reported lynchings in the Racial Terror Lynching map. The county with the highest number of lynchings had 48 just in one county (Leflore County). However this map only counts the lynching of African Americans so the volume of lynching is presented much different than the map above and primarily focuses on the American South and ignoring states like California as pointed out in the Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects article.

What happens when you map such a horrific act such as lynching, it can sometimes take away the magnitude and the gruesome nature of the action, making it easier to ignore the ethical implications that come with mapping such a topic. It turns a serious racially driven crime into a a shade of red which can ignore the lives that have been lost from lynching and normalizes the behavior to an extent. The maps are useful in the fact that they demonstrate the amount of lynching occurring but can place the blame on the geographical area instead of looking deeper into the problem. Additionally when mapping out such a significant thing, just using a choropleth map can take out the personification of the event and make it much less humanizing.

The different focuses of both the White Supremacy Mob Violence Map and the Racial Terror Lynching map illustrate two different issues when it comes to lynching and shows the two different definitions of what is classified as lynching. While the Racial Terror Lynching map demonstrates a more rigid definition with lynching involving a white supremacy mob that believes what they are doing is lawful and righteous, additionally knowing that they will get away with murder because what they are performing is a form of justice. The White Supremacy Mob Violence Map on the other hand, still believed that the murder they were performing by mob was serving justice to support white supremacy, but was included much more ethnic groups and had a much more homicidal intentionality and brutality surrounding the lynching, often mutilating the corpse of the victims. While neither is ethical it is important to note that there are differences in the definition of lynching and that can effect how it is mapped onto a map.

Works Cited:

Hepworth, Katherine, and Christopher Church. 2018. “DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in                    Digital Humanities Projects.” 2018. https://digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/12/4/000408/000408.html.

“Explore the Map | Lynching in America.” n.d. https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/explore.

“Monroe & Florence Work Today – Explore the Map.” n.d. Monroe & Florence Work Today. https://plaintalkhistory.com/monroeandflorencework/explore/.

Week 11 Blog Post – Evan Murphy

Monroe and Florence Work studied and tracked all lynching’s in the US due to the fact that no one was tracking them over all the small town newspapers. The map below shows where they moved throughout their lives in the story map dedicated to them. Them having to relocate so many times to get accurate data and continue there research was a key part of the beginning of the story map. If they had not had to move around so much it is possible that the information would have become public much faster than it did.

Monroe and Florence Work movement map.

Below is a section of the Monroe and Florence Work map that depicts the lynching’s in and around Memphis, TN. Interestingly, the areas in and around cities have more lynching’s then the other areas although they are obviously depicted by numbers and not per capita. I would have expected most lynching’s to be rural as law enforcement tends to be more prominent in cities.

Map of White Supremacy Mob Violence

The Lynching in America Map depicts the lynching’s from more of a data standpoint than a story standpoint, focusing less on the activist and more on the reasons for the activism. My favorite aspect of the map is the section dedicated to the Great Migration, the slider is easy to use and helpful but the best aspect of the map in my opinion is using specific examples of cities that had large population changes, both by gaining and losing a large percentage of black residents.

Lynching in America

The paragraph below from the Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects discusses how humans were able to teach AI racism displays how deeply ingrained it is in our society. This phenomenon is not unique unfortunately, I remember an AI Seinfeld program that ran on twitch nonstop for about a week but got shut down when people taught it to be racist.

Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects

The image below is a screenshot from the Racism in the Machine article depicting a difference in information between the two maps, specifically in California but in the west as a whole, this difference in information is showcased as one of the flaws that comes from not using the data collected by Monroe and Florence Work.

Racism in the Machine compared maps

Overall the differences between the two maps are an interesting look into what data is readily and easily accessible at this point in time, which impacts the public memory of lynching’s. At this point the public memory of these events being accurate is remarkably important as there are so many misconceptions and misunderstandings about these events. I also appreciate that the Monroe and Florence Work maps contain demographic information on who was being lynched rather than simply that people were lynched. It gives more information and makes the people that were killed appear as they are, as people.

Ethics of Mapping Levi Laib

Mapping the history of sensitive topics such as racial violence and white supremacy comes with large ethical implications that must be considered when understanding and interpreting maps. As outlined in the abstract of the Racism in the Machine article, it mentioned how “data visualizations are inherently rhetorical, and therefore bias-laden visual artifacts that contain both explicit and implicit arguments.” When looking at maps of such sensitive topics, it is important to keep in mind the bias-laden artifacts and look at both the explicit and implicit arguments within them. The article takes a look at the two projects that look at lynching in the United States and outlines both the positives of each project but also the critiques of them.

The “Racial Terror Lynchings Map” which was created by the Equal Justice Initiative looks to document the lynchings of African Americans primarily in the southern portion of the United States. While this map can be used as an advocacy tool as it highlights the historically targeted injustices and their current-day implications such as mass incarceration, the map reviews many critiques. Firstly, it has a narrow focus and overlooks other marginalized groups experiencing similar targeted violence during its time period such as Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Mexicans. It also has an emphasis on the Southern regions of the United States, but these other marginalized groups often experience injustices outside of the South. The map immediately centers itself on the United States South, even when there are counties outside the region that are marked as lynchings occurring. It takes some navigating of the site in order to see the rest of the United States to look at other Lynchings. Looking at the broad overview of the site, it does offer different ways of observing information. It has an interactive map, stories of lynchings, videos, and the original report on lynchings in American. It also offers educators lesson plans on how to talk about Lynching. I find this especially interesting because we did not talk about lynching in high school. This could have been because of where I went to school and it could be different in other states.  

The Map of White Supremacy is the second project the article takes a look at. This project is an interactive map that systematically documented lynchings in the United States. It depicts lynching records in the context of historical racial violence and public discourses of white superiority. Developed by Auut Studio, the map presents a comprehensive depiction of racial violence, emphasizing the nationwide prevalence of white supremacy enforced through mob violence. Initially showing grey dots representing each recorded lynching, the map becomes more detailed upon interaction, displaying state and county boundaries subtly while highlighting individual incidents with bright colors. It incorporates features like a timeline and a color-coded legend to allow users to explore different aspects of lynching history, including the racial diversity of victims and the temporal patterns of racial violence. Moreover, the map personalizes the data by listing the names and details of lynched individuals, shedding light on the humanity behind these tragic events and underscoring the racism inherent in lynching incidents, often obscured in historical records. Through these features and interactive elements, the Map of White Supremacy Mob Violence effectively contextualizes the data within the broader societal issues of racism and white supremacy, offering users a deeper understanding of this dark chapter in American history.

The next section compares the representation of lynchings in California on two maps: the Racial Terror Lynchings map and the Map of White Supremacy Mob Violence. While the former only illustrates lynchings of African Americans, the latter includes incidents involving Native Americans, Latinos, Italians, and other races, providing a more comprehensive view. The Map of White Supremacy Mob Violence presents a stark visual narrative indicating widespread lynchings across California, underscoring the enforcement of white superiority. In contrast, the Racial Terror Lynchings map lacks clarity in its data representation, implying fewer instances of racial terror or lynchings in California. This discrepancy is problematic given the high rates of black incarceration in California today, contradicting the Equal Justice Initiative’s aim to address racial injustice tied to the history of lynchings. The section highlights how the visual argument of the Racial Terror Lynchings map inadvertently weakens advocacy efforts regarding California’s prison system and racial disparities in incarceration rates.

When looking at these topics, one cannot avoid the ethical implications of the topics. As such, the article discusses an ethical visualization workflow that they Hepworth and Church feel with minimize harm to three groups: people using visualizations, people represented in visualizations, and people personally affected by the represented material. In addition, this will also maximize the capacity and effectiveness of the visualization itself. 


EJI and Google. “Lynching in America: Racial Terror Lynchings.” https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/explore

Hepworth, Katherine, and Christopher Church. “Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects.” Digital Humanities Quarterly. Vo. 12, no. 4 (2018).

Monroe and Florence Work. “White Supremacy Mob Violence.” https://new.express.adobe.com/webpage/nKAyaWTMZtLxS/

Wyatt Greco: The Ethics of Mapping in History

Statistics is a common course for undergraduate, and often high school, students. Effective statistics courses, like those I have taken at Creighton, will emphasize critical analysis of data visualizations. For example: some data may not fit clearly into certain types of graphs; some samples may be too small or narrow to answer the hypotheses being tested; while still other methods may be swayed by unstated bias. Maps are somewhat unique in that they are a form of data visualization that are often not treated as such in society and culture at large. Before taking Mapping History, I admit that I tended to view maps as blanketly authoritative. We grow up seeing a map of the nation and/or world in the back of the elementary school classroom and implicitly learn to take such depictions at face value. However, maps are ultimately a means to visualize a data-based argument. Given that cartography already carries a cultural authority of definitiveness, map-makers need be especially transparent and intentional about data collection and data depiction [1].

Intentionality goes beyond expected (though of course important) efforts to verify the accuracy of historical sources and identify any biases present therein [2]. Valid sources can be excluded or included based on one’s arguments or definitions, as highlighted by Hepworth and Church in their analysis of two visualizations of lynching in the United States [3]. Before a cartographic visualization is even accessible, the Monroe Work Today study compels the audience to pause and consider the effect of pre-conceptions on data collection and, by extension, the ultimate visualization and argument:

“Monroe and Florence Work Today,” Plain Talk History, website, accessed March 27, 2024, https://plaintalkhistory.com/monroeandflorencework/explore/.

While the “Lynching in America” map by the Equal Justice Initiative and Google is accessible alongside multiple other resources, the assumptions or interests of the cartographers are not made readily apparent. Indeed, without the background provided by Hepworth and Church, I may not even have realized that EJI is actually using the historical and geographic argument to further the “organization’s present-day advocacy work regarding the inequitable mass incarceration of black Americans” [4].

“Lynching in America,” Equal Justice Initiative and Google, website, accessed March 27, 2024.

Regarding the mapping products themselves, the Monroe Work Today map once again prioritizes transparency of data. Unlike EJI, which maps lynching using county-level aggregation visualized with a choropleth, Monroe Work Today depicts each individual lynching as a point. Hovering on an EJI choropleth polygon reveals the number of lynchings which occurred in that county, but selecting a point on the Monroe Work Today map will prompt a description of the victim accompanied by links to sources and further reading.

“Lynching in America,” Equal Justice Initiative.
“Monroe and Florence Work Today,” Plain Talk History.

Hepworth and Church argue that the Monroe Work Today map, with its broader definition and individual points, paints a “more inclusive picture of white supremacist violence” [5]. The Monroe Work Today project is transparent about the data behind the cartography, and it presents that data in a way that acknowledges the individual humanity of lynching victims [6]. I agree with Hepworth and Church that the Monroe Work Today map is the preferred example of ethical mapping [7]. Maps should consider both those reading the map and those who are being mapped. While the EJI illustrates the horror of lynching in the aggregate, it does not readily include the audience in the data collection or analysis process. Moreover, as Hepworth and Church point out, presenting this sensitive and painful data in the aggregate can unintentionally dehumanize the subject [8].

Data collection and data depiction are inherent to all mapping, even with seemingly straightforward political maps which purport to show governmental boundaries (these rely on surveying, national claims to territory, etc.). As such, the most ethical maps are those which acknowledge data as a powerful, yet originally unshaped, tool. Cartographers should be transparent about data so that their work is open to full critique and replication. Any potential bias or interest that could affect data collection should be stated outright. Finally, the visualization of data should strive to be accessible to the audience, to do right by the subjects, and to be aware of the larger social and human context which might be impacted by the results of the project.

Research does not occur in a vacuum. Just as a scientist studying gene editing or artificial intelligence should consider the implications for human life, so should works of history and cartography consider that the narratives they create or support can have real influence on politics and culture. Historical study should of course be as objective as possible, but the way that objectivity is presented can make a difference. Visualizers must strive to be more than just transparent and accurate. They should also be aware that political actors lean on history to justify policy, and that the relationships between individuals and groups in the United States draw heavily upon the past. Moreover, they should be sensitive to the real stories, lives, and legacies with which they work.


1 – 8: Katherine Hepworth and Christopher Church, “Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 12, no. 4 (2018).

Ethical Mapping Blog Post 8 Michael Lau

Mapping in itself is a form of data visualization, and is thus not representative of the real world. However, it is one of the most effective ways to help a person visualize the spatial scope of differing subjects. In this case, we are looking at the ethical implications of two different lynching maps. One by the Non-Profit organization, Lynching in America, and the other by Monroe Work, a 1900s sociologist, who recorded many different lynchings and their sites. Each has their own biases and differing views on what is important in the visualization of their data. In the end, however, they are still just representations of real events that happened to real people.

These maps differ drastically ethically. The Monroe Work map in fact gives you an option to map different definitions of lynching.

This drastically changes how these deaths are mapped, with there being more deaths due to collective violence than there was with a stricter definition of Lynching. This is best shown in the timelines of each definition. The stricter definition of lynching has less dots on the timeline, especially during the 1970s-2020.

Left is the strict definition of lynching, on the right is the less strict definition.

Now imagine if the first stricter definition was the only definition shown. It would thus seem to us that White supremacy and lynchings were stopped sometime in the 1970s and is now a historical event. Something consigned to the history books as a dark chapter of our history. Arguably this is the correct way to map this, as ethically we are following already established definitions and guidelines to portray the most accurate data possible. However, what about when these underlying definitions and guidelines are dated or obsolete in terms of modern sensibilities? It is thus up to the cartographer and data analyst to decipher a workable solution to this problem, leading to less “empirically” accurate data visualization, and arguably the manipulation of the data portrayed. An interesting point on this timeline is the Jan 6th riots of 2021, where tragically, Brian Sicknick was killed by rioters and rebels. One could argue whether this riot was a lynching or a protest that went wrong, but in any case someone died from a group incited violence. It may not be a traditional story of lynching, but the similarities are startling and disturbing. Is it thus ethically dubious to show related events on these maps? Katherine Hepsworth and Christopher Church think not, in their journal article “Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects”, they speak about how the data visualizations made by humans and anything man-made are fundamentally flawed due to their inherent biases formed by those who created them.

They compare the work done by Monroe Work to the work done by EJI and google, with their chloropleth map of “Lynching in America” (LiA). The use of color is remarkable with is symbolism, America covered in darkness with splattering of blood-red chloropleth counties. Evocative of the abuse of black men by white mobs, it’s visually stunning, but is sorely lacking in specifity and crucial information. The major exception that the makers of this map decided to do was to exclude all other populations other than the black population from their data visualization.

Population lynched from 1877 to 1950
Population lynched from 1848 to 2020, different colors indicate race.

In addition, the information given by LiA, is too broad and incomplete. There are only four names that are posted in over 4000 lynchings, whereas the Monroe Work map has every dot labelled with a person if possible. Ethically you may argue that a broader visualization is more helpful to understand the scale of the problem, however, when compared to the dot map of Work, the LiA map seems sensationalized and heavy-handed. This arguably strengthens its message, but it does not feel like the most objective or best way to present this information. Specificity and, in this case, personalization would help get across the message better. Church and Hepworth, have made an ethical framework to help make ethical maps.

Personally, I think that there is no such thing as ethical data visualization, as no matted how well we do, we will miss something that will exclude a certain group or people. At best, we can try to include everyone and everything possible without diluting the message. But in any case, our own biases will determine what gets cut.


Explore The Map | Lynching In America. https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/explore. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

Hepworth, Katherine, and Christopher Church. “Racism in the Machine: Visualization Ethics in Digital Humanities Projects.” Digital Humanities Quarterly, vol. 012, no. 4, Feb. 2019.

studio, auut. “Monroe & Florence Work Today – Explore the Map of Lynchings.” Monroe & Florence Work Today, https://plaintalkhistory.com/monroeandflorencework/explore/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

Andrew Merfeld Blog 8

The article starts out by explaining the AI chatbot created by Microsoft. At first, the AI chatbot was working well, until the Chatbot got into an algorithm that made it post inflammatory and racist content. In my opinion, the reason that this is at the beginning of the article is to show that algorithms are not neutral, and they actually reflect on how humans act. In today’s day and age, we are lucky enough to have AI technology that can help in many aspects of life, but we can also see the bad things that are still happening today like racial discrimination and inflammatory language being used by real humans. The only way for the chatbot to be put into that algorithm is by seeing and analyzing these sayings and words used by real humans in real-time, showing there is still a lot of racial discrimination going on today. 

Going into the “Lynching in America” map, the thing that stood out to me the most was the use of the color scheme. This is a very frightening topic, and I think the use of grayscale and bright reds exemplified the seriousness of the issue. Likewise, the interactiveness of the map is something that stood out to me. I like being able to visualize and interact with some of the states and counties that are depicted on the map. When looking at the map as a whole, however, you can see there is “a sea of red” along the Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas borders that all touch. I think that this has to do with different ideals, laws, and regulations from county to county. As you get further away from these areas — except for a portion of Florida — you don’t see as many bright red counties. Another thing I think could play a role in this, is the idea “If I see someone doing it (lynchings), it’s okay for me to do so as well” and I think the border lines of Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas truly show that. 

Like the “Lynching in America” map, it displays recorded lynchings in the states, most predominantly in the southern states. However, the map also shows the lynchings that were taking place elsewhere. The second map, I think, focuses more on the widespread lynchings, rather than trying to use a color scheme to horrify the lynchings just in the south. In one of my other classes, we talked about lynchings, carnivals, parades, etc… that took place outside of the Southern Region (Like Omaha) and I found that very interesting because I never knew that these things were taking place essentially all over the United States. That’s what I think the Monroe map is showing, is more of the widespread severity, as compared to the southern severity, and trying to make it more severe with the use of the greyscale and bright red color scheme.