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  • Megan Johanson

10 Data Visualizations for Black History Month

For Black History Month, I’ve rounded up the best race-related data visualizations I’ve seen.

They cover the timeline of slavery in America, current racial disparities, and diversity within federal leadership roles.

Click on any image to go to the source.

1. Slavery Wasn’t So Long Ago, visualized by Zerflin.

This simple timeline makes a big impact. It shows that in America, black people have been considered property longer than they’ve been considered people. It’s shocking how recent slavery and segregation are when you look at the big picture of our country’s history.

Timeline of slavery, segregation, and beyond in America.

2. Proportion of Free Versus Enslaved Blacks, visualized by W.E.B. Du Bois and his colleagues.

Du Bois and colleagues created some of the earliest recorded data visualizations in 1900 to portray the lives of Black people in America. You can read more about his groundbreaking visual report here.

Stacked area chart where proportion of free versus enslaved Black Americans is presented from 11790 to 1870. Only 8-14% of Black Americans were free every year until 1870, when they were all free.

3. Black People in America are Disproportionately More Likely to be Fatally Shot by Police Officers, visualized by Isabella Benabaye.

The charts include data from 2015 to 2020 and use The Washington Post’s database of fatal shootings by police officers in the line of duty.

What I really like about the charts is the context provided by showing the parallel percent of the population next to the percent of those killed. It helps to understand that while white citizens make up the largest percentage of those killed, Black citizens are killed at a disproportionately high rate compared to their proportion of the population.

Paired bar charts where the percent of the population for each racial/ethnic group is compared to the percent of those killed by the police.

4. Black Lives Matter Protests and Riots over a 3-Month Span in 2020, visualized by Ilena Peng.

What stands out is that there were protests or riots in all of the 48 contiguous states. I would have expected Minnesota to have among the highest number of protests, but the data show many other states had more protests. I am curious to know whether the patterns have changed if more recent months of data were included.

Map of the United States where states with more Black Lives Matter protests and riots are shown in darker green.

5. Black Maternal Mortality Rate is 2.5 Times Higher than White Rate, visualized by Valentina D’Efilippo.

Although I find this chart a bit cluttered and I would prefer to see the categories sorted from highest to lowest, the differences between the races is startling. While the maternal mortality rate is getting worse for every race except for Asian/Pacific Islander, it is by far the highest for Black women.

Chart where the change US maternal mortality rates between 2005 and 2014 is shown for each racial/ethnic group. Black women have the highest rate and Native American or Alaska Natives have the largest increase.

6. 40% of Black Students Do Not Have Access to Instruction (as of June 2020), visualized by Emma Dorn, Bryan Hancock, Jimmy Sarakatsannis, and Ellen Viruleg at McKinsey & Company

Black, Hispanic, and low-income students are at an academic disadvantage with the country relying on remote schooling. The results of this inconsistency in instruction will likely persist for years.

Stacked bar chart where quality of remote instruction is shown for each racial/ethnic group as well as for low income students. Black, Hispanic, and low income students are much less likely to be receiving quality education during the pandemic.

7. The Black-White Pay Disparity Continues to Grow Wider, visualized by Mona Chalabi.

I love the use of actual dollar bills to portray financial data. It’s such a unique visualization strategy but invokes real feeling.

Area chart depicting the amount earned by a white person for every $1 a Black person earns. The area within the chart is filled with an actual dollar bill.

8. Diversity of the Current US Congress, visualized by Katherina Buckholz at Statista.

I like this visual a lot but think it would benefit from including the context of the racial/ethnicity break-down of the American population. What jumps out at me is the relative lack of diversity within the Republican party compared to the Democratic party. Particularly within the Senate, there is still a long way to go to create a true reflection of the citizens they serve.

Icon arrays where the racial/ethnic diversity of the House and Senate are depicted separately for Republicans and Democrats.

9. Notable Black Achievements, visualized by Eve Thomas.

Click on the image to go to the interactive visualization where you can explore who broke a race barrier and when. I really appreciate the color coding and category organization of this visual. It is packed with information without being visually overwhelming.

Static version of an interactive chart where each dot represents a person that broke a race barrier in American history.

10. The Current Cabinet is the Most Diverse in History, visualized by The New York Times.

As of January 21, 2021, President Biden’s cabinet appointees make his cabinet the most racially/ethnically diverse as well as the most equal for gender. The context of the past four presidents’ cabinets really add to the story the visualization is telling. You can see at a glance that even Obama didn’t push the bar as far as Biden has, though he likely laid the groundwork for the current administration’s diverse appointees.

Stacked bar charts where proportions of gender and racial diversity are shown for the last 5 presidential cabinets.


Data visualization is a powerful tool for making what would otherwise be boring data tables feel real and relevant. My favorite from the batch is the first one- the timeline of Black Americans. It is so simple and so powerful.

Which visualization speaks to you the most?

If you have seen other powerful visualizations, please share them in the comments!


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