Friday, May 6, 2016

Slavery in the North

The last of my trio of slavery projects: an interactive map of slavery in the north, town by town. Although it's easy to overlook northern slavery in comparison to its huge presence in the south, at the founding of the United States it was a serious part of the northern economy, especially in areas in New York and New Jersey first settled by the Dutch. Over two thousand slaves lived in New York City in 1790, and more than 60% of white families in what is now Brooklyn were slave-owners. Nearly every town in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island had at least a few slaves.

The main task of this project was getting the data, but I'm also trying some new techniques for blending interactive and static mapping. Town-level data has always been available for the north (at least after a bit of math), but it has never before been mapped or digitized. Not surprisingly, disaggretating 90 counties — many huge and unhelpful — into 1,600 towns means that new patterns emerge, and it's possible to connect broad trends with local reality in a new way. The interactive map gives detailed information about every town, but I've also made sure that the project can be downloaded as a stand-alone digital poster.