Mapping African American Poetry, 1850-1944

The map above was generated using Google Maps, based on a dataset that originated with Dorothy Porter's 1945 Checklist of African American poetry (1760-1944). In my own adaptation of checklist, I removed materials that were pre-1850, and also attempted to clean up any omissions from Porter's original list related to publication date, publisher, and location. For more on the dataset, see my previous post.

What does this map show? 

This map is a simple conversion of table data to pinpointed locations. Admittedly, more sophisticated visualizations might also be tried.  (Another form of map that might be revealing would be a heatmap that would show density. Obviously, there are urban concentrations, including a considerable amount of concentration in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. An even more sophisticated version might be animated to show changes over time... Hopefully, one or both of those map formats will be forthcoming...) 

The most interesting takeaway for us is the incredible geographic diversity of publication sites being used by Black poets during this period. A zoomed-in version shows that geographic diversity quite clearly: 

Not just big cities, but regional cities like Nashville, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville Kentucky are important for African American poetry publication. Even smaller smaller towns had printing presses, and many authors who self-published in small towns printed their poetry on local presses.