The mapping of the racial demographics of the United States has a long and difficult history. From the earliest counts of enslaved individuals and the practice of redlining, to the under counts of various groups in modern Census tabulations, there have always been questions about both its purpose and its accuracy.
In the summer of 2022, John Hessler and two GIS Research Fellows, Anika Fenn Gilman and Catherine Discenza decided to plunge into this mass of historic data and started to apply modern GIS tools to some of it, like that collected by Ida B. Wells and the practice of redlining. Inspired by Hessler’s work with the House Select Committee on Racial Inequality, they sought to answer three questions about the history and legacy of the mapping of race: Who was doing it?; Who was using it?; and What were they using it for?”
They will discuss their journey through this mostly unknown and ephemeral data, talk about some surprising answers to these questions and detail the making of their web making application, Mapping Race in America https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/ac998a8425b54e319f61d34ff1a94a0c
Bios: John Hessler is a Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University and the Director of the Lambda Lab for high-performance computing and public policy analysis. The Lab is currently developing new statistical tools for mapping far from equilibrium spatiotemporal processes, like the spread of pandemics and refugee flows.
Anika Fenn Gilman is a senior at Tulane University. She is studying Mathematics and Political Science with a concentration in International Relations, while also pursuing a certificate in Geographic Information Science. She is interested in geopolitical analysis and in exploring how spatial data can illustrate, explain, and contextualize contemporary issues.
Catherine Discenza is a fourth-year student at the University of Florida. They are pursuing a degree in medical geography, with a minor in health disparities. After graduation, they plan on attending graduate school, and hope to continue to do research at the intersection of space, identity, and health.
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