This research, education, and outreach project is dedicated to using new technology and archival data to recreate the survey W.E.B. Du Bois conducted of Philadelphia's Seventh Ward for his 1899 classic book, The Philadelphia Negro.

In addition to introducing students to the power of geographic information systems (GIS) mapping and the fun of analyzing primary historical documents, we aim to draw attention to the history of the vibrant African American community that once lived in Center City. We also hope that, by engaging people in this fascinating story about Du Bois' research and the people he studied, we can facilitate an honest dialog about how race has shaped cities like Philadelphia and continues to shapes our lives.

  • Anne Garcia, 139th celebration

    Anne Garcia (MSW'07) with a birthday cake for Dr. Du Bois at our celebration at Du Bois College House.

  • Haftom Khasai, documentary

    Haftom Khasai, a senior at West Philadelphia High School, gets ready to film a scene for our documentary.

  • Historical Marker, walking tour

    A historical marker at 6th and Rodman Streets indicates where Du Bois lived while researching The Philadelphia Negro.

  • Mapping Courage and Engine 11, mural

    The Mural Arts Program invited community members to help paint the mural "Mapping Courage" at Sixth and South Streets that honors Du Bois and Engine 11.

  • Mapping Courage and Engine 11, mural

    The Mapping Courage mural honors Du Bois and Engine 11, a historically black fire house. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.

  • Mapping Courage and Engine 11, mural

    Members of the Philadelphia Fire Department helped paint the Maping Courage mural at 6th and South Street. Photo by Haftom Khasai.

  • Du Bois original card, archives

    Du Bois collected detailed information about individuals living in the 2500 black households in the Seventh Ward in 1896 and transferred his data to these cards.

  • Du Bois signature, archives

    Du Bois lived at several different addresses in Philadelphia for a total of 15 months while he conducted his study of the Old Seventh Ward.

  • Philadelphia Inquirer 1987, archives

    This January 1897 Philadelphia Inquirer article complained that Philadelphia was dirtiest city in the United States.

  • Mapping Courage and Engine 11, mural

    The Mapping Courage mural shows the legend for the color-coded parcel map Du Bois creating, indiciating the social class structure in the Seventh Ward. Photo by Susan Kinnevy.

  • Bromley 1896 map, archives

    This 1896 Bromley fire insurance map shows the Octavius V. Catto School at 21st and Lombard Streets, the present-day site of the Lombard Street Swim Club.

  • Mapping Courage and Engine 11, mural

    Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers speaks at the dedication of the Mapping Courage mural.

  • Arthur on Du Bois day, photos

    Arthur McFarlane, the great-grandson of W.E.B. Du Bois, accepts a City Council resolution and proclomation declaring Saturday, October 25, 2008 "W.E.B. Du Bois Day" in Philadelphia.

About the Project


Du Bois Books

Under the leadership of philanthropist Susan Wharton, Philadelphia's College Settlement Association invited Du Bois, a recent Harvard Ph.D. graduate, to conduct a survey of Blacks living in the 7th Ward. The University of Pennsylvania agreed to give Du Bois the title of "assistant in sociology," but Du Bois received little else from Penn. The part of downtown Philadelphia that Du Bois studied now is predominantly white and has some of the most expensive real estate in the region, including the Rittenhouse Square and Washington Square West neighborhoods. But at the turn of the century, it was home to more Blacks of all classes than any other part of Philadelphia.

Du Bois lived in Philadelphia for a year during which he went door-to-door, interviewing each of the 2,500 black households. He classified each of them by social class according to his own judgment and used colors to represent each group on a map of the seventh ward.

Du Bois's final 500-page report addressed the history of blacks in Philadelphia, employment, housing, churches, crime, and family composition. It included a mix of harsh Victorian judgments on lower class blacks and insightful comments about racism and discrimination. Du Bois's methods were well ahead of his time, combining ethnography, survey methods, mapping, and statistical analysis.

Data Collection

The survey data Du Bois collected himself no longer exist, so we have collected household-level data from the 1900 U.S. Census, instead. The 1900 U.S. Census includes the following variables about each individual in each household:

Old Seventh Ward Map Old Seventh Ward
  • First and last name
  • Relationship to head of household
  • Age and place of birth
  • Place of birth for parents
  • Occupation
  • Able to read and write
  • Able to speak English

These data were transferred from microfilm reels at the Van Pelt Library and scanned records available at Ancetry.com to computer spreadsheets. We have also begun collecting articles from Philadelphia's daily and African American newspapers, historical photographs, health records, crime data, property insurance records, and business directories.

Scholarly Research

The data we collect will be mapped and analyzed using GIS and spatial statistical methods and used as the basis for new academic research addressing the following research questions:

  • How did Du Bois's research methods reflect and influence developments in the social sciences and social survey movement?
  • What was the basis for his class grades?
  • What was the nature of residential segregation in 1896 by race, ethnicity, and migration status?
  • What happened to the Black residents and Black institutions of the 7th Ward during the 20th Century?
  • How did housing conditions in Philadelphia compare with housing conditions in New York and other cities?

Website and Teaching Materials

In addition to producing new scholarship, this project aims to increase the number of high school and college students who read The Philadelphia Negro and to make Du Bois's survey results more accessible to them. The data collected through this project are all being made available on this website. High school students in Philadelphia public schools are required to take an African American history course before graduating, so we are eager to provide them with curriculum materials, but we also expect that this project will have relevance to students outside Philadelphia.

Community Outreach

Through our initial research, we have met many community residents who share our commitment to honoring W.E.B. Du Bois and telling the story of the Old Seventh Ward. With the support and input of community residents and representatives of the neighborhood associations near the Old Seventh Ward, we successfully applied to the Mural Arts Program for a mural honoring W.E.B. Du Bois. A mural of Du Bois and Seventh Ward residents was completed on the fire station at Sixth and South Streets during the fall of 2008. We have also begun giving walking tours of the Seventh Ward. Eventually, we hope to develop an interactive tour guide in the form of a PDA that uses GPS and wireless technology to put our GIS database in the hands of people walking through the Seventh Ward. We also hope to organize community events where residents will be invited to scan and contribute their own historical photographs and records to a number of different digital history projects, on the model of the neighborhood workshops sponsored by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and Department of Records during the fall of 2007.

Future Extensions

Our long-term dreams for this project include hosting a summer institute for high school teachers and students to learn about social science and history research methods as they relate to The Philadelphia Negro. We also hope to develop a virtual 3-D model of the Seventh Ward that would allow visitors to view inside buildings. In the shorter-term, we will be adding information about who lived in the Seventh Ward after 1900.

Project Funding

We are grateful to the following organizations for their support.

Samuel S. Fels Fund

Funding to complete board game, documentary, and donate copies of The Philadelphia Negro to the Free Library of Philadelphia and all its branches, May 2008 - present.
View Proposal (pdf)

Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

Mural Arts Program created a mural honoring W.E.B. Du Bois and his research in the Old Seventh Ward in response to our October 2006 proposal.
View Proposal (pdf)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Research and Education Fund

Funding to collect historical health data and produce scholarship relating to health disparities, January - August 2007.
View Proposal (pdf)

National Endowment for Humanities

Curriculum Education Grant for Teaching and Learning Resources and Curriculum Development Funding to develop online GIS application for high school and college students, June 2006 - May 2008.
View Proposal (pdf)

University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation

Pilot funding to assist with collection of 1900 U.S. Census data and support scholarly applications of GIS data, February 2005 - August 2006.
View Proposal (pdf)

John B. Hurford Humanities Internship Program, Haverford College

Funding for summer interns, Summer 2006, 2007, 2008
View Proposal (pdf)

Penn Institute for Urban Research

Research assistance through participation in Undergraduate Urban Research Course, Spring 2004

University of Pennsylvania Press

Discount on copies of The Philadelphia Negro for project team members and students at Masterman High School and Eastern Camden County Regional High School

Project Partners

Avencia, Inc.

Avencia is a geospatial analysis firm serving governments, universities, non-profit organizations and businesses . It provides a range of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) services, systems design, and software development services. Avencia has designed and developed customized modeling and spatial analysis applications for business intelligence, neighborhood redevelopment, vacant land, demographics, conservation, crime analysis and spatial modeling frameworks. Avenica will develop the online interactive mapping application at the heart of the Mapping Du Bois website. Many of the ideas for the website and data collection for the project are based on the work that Avencia has done with the Cartographic Modeling Lab, including the Neighborhood Information System, and Philadelphia's Department of Records, including PhillyHistory.

The Cartographic Modeling Lab

The CML is a research center affiliated with the Schools of Social Policy and Practice, Design, and Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The CML specializes in research using administrative records, GIS, and spatial analysis. The CML's flagship project, the Neighborhood Information System (NIS), integrates administrative records from Philadelphia municipal agencies into a series of online mapping applications used by researchers, students, community organizations, and city agencies. The CML has worked with the Israeli firm Geo-Sim to develop a realistic but entirely virtual world through an interactive 3-D model of the neighborhood where Penn is located. Data collection involved extensive filming and photographing. The resulting application allows users to move through this virtual neighborhood by walking, driving, and flying.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania and PhilaPlace

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, located in downtown Philadelphia, was founded in 1824 and is home to more than 19 million manuscript and graphic items and 600,000 printed items. HSP's PhilaPlace project uses stories, photographs, and GIS maps to show how two Philadelphia neighborhoods- South Philadelphia and Northern Liberties/Lower Kensington- have changed over time. These are Philadelphia's oldest immigrant and African American neighborhoods. The PhilaPlace website will include stories, podcast tours, maps, neighborhood timelines, and teacher lesson plans. PhilaPlace is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) with additional support from the Heritage Philadelphia Program of the Pew Charitable Trusts, Pennsylvania Department of Education, Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Samuel S. Fels Fund, Southwest Airlines, and the Walter J. Miller Foundation.

J.R. Masterman High School

J.R. Masterman High School is participating in the Mapping Du Bois project through the African-American History class taught by Amy Jane Cohen. Ms. Cohen began teaching African-American history before the School District of Philadelphia made it a requirement. Before partnering with the Mapping Du Bois project, her students were reading The Philadelphia Negro. Three of Ms. Cohen's students have worked on the project. She and her current students will help design and test the online materials developed through this project.

Eastern Camden Country Regional High School

Eastern Camden Country Regional High School is participating in the Mapping Du Bois project through a sociology class taught by Maryann Walker. Through this course, Ms. Walker introduces her students to Du Bois and other important figures in African American History. One of Ms. Walker's students has worked on the Mapping Du Bois project so far. As with the class at Masterman High School, Ms. Walker and her current students will help design and test the online materials developed through this project


"South Street mural honors Du Bois"

The Pennsylvania Gazette, Jan/Feb 2009
Read Article...

"Mapping Du Bois Newsletter"

Mapping Du Bois, The Philadelphia Negro

"Tribute to two African American landmarks"

The Philadelphia Inquirer 26 October 2008
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"W.E.B. Du Bois, bigger than life"

The Philadelphia Inquirer 24 October 2008, page B1
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"Group Maps City Access to Health Foods"

by Dan Charles, National Public Radio, "Day to Day," January 31, 2007
Listen to the broadcast and read the online article that discusses The Philadelphia Negro and Mapping Du Bois project in light of GIS research on contemporary health issues.
Read Article... or Listen to Broadcast...

"Up Against a Wall"

by Zoe Tillman, Daily Pennsylvanian, November 14, 2007 (pp. 1 and 7)
The first in a series of articles, editorials, and reader responses to Amy Hillier's proposal for a mural of Du Bois on Penn's campus.
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"Wall Without Color Awaits Decision"

by Ashwin Shandilya, Daily Pennsylvania, March 15, 2007 (pp. 1 and 10)
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"Mapping Du Bois"

by John Reinhardt,
The Link: The Student Newsletter of the Department of City and Regional Planning, Fall 2006 (pp. 1 and 8)
Read Article...

"Penn's Hillier Speaks on GIS Project"

Eastern Camden County Regional School District Newsletter, April 2006 (p. 2)
Eastern High School in Vorhees, NJ is one of the partner high schools for the Mapping Du Bois project. Read about our first visit in April 2006.
Read Article...

"Mapping The Philadelphia Negro"

by John H. Walker, October 2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette
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Du Bois Standing We The People Logo
Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.