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PRINT December 2019

books

Zeynep Çelik Alexander

How to speak when misinformation threatens the legitimacy of speech itself? W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America (Princeton Architectural Press) is an account of how the great American sociologist provided an answer to that question when he prepared the “Exhibit of American Negroes” for the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. With the help of students and alumni from Atlanta University, Du Bois set aside contemplative prose, his usual weapon, and instead produced a series of colorful infographics that relayed his message to contemporaneous audiences with the force and directness of a bullet: African Americans were not outside of history, as so many since Hegel had claimed, but firmly within it. Over and against the misinformation campaigns spearheaded by turn-of-the-century social Darwinists, who forecast the extinction of African Americans after

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