The African-American Census
[ A B O U T . T H E . P R O J E C T ]


Project Overview

The original manuscript of the census currently is held on deposit at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and contains a remarkable breadth of information. As the census provides an excellent resource for researchers, this project seeks to make the document more accessible and to highlight the research possibilities that it may offer. The project was conducted within the context of the course "Advanced Fieldwork Techniques: Places in Time" in the Growth and Structure of Cities Program at Bryn Mawr College.

I began my research by examining the original census and proceeded to contextualize this document by utilizing primary and secondary sources about African-American Philadelphia. This work was complemented by archival research conducted at the Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections and at the Philadelphia Historical Commission. Additionally, as a means to consider connections between the census data and the contemporary built spatial environment, I visited several of the areas in which the census was conducted. This website aims to bring together insights gained from these various stages of research in a manner that is both accessible and beneficial to researchers and to others interested in African-American history. Future projects might build upon this work by making copies of the original census available online and eventually by creating a searchable database of the information contained in the census.

Using This Site

"Historical Context" aims to contextualize the census historically. This includes a discussion of the types of information collected in the census and the political climate in which the census was conducted.

"Places and People" attempts to draw connections between the households listed in the census and the buildings from that time period that still exist today. Here, existing sites are depicted on a historical map, and they are accompanied by information about the families who lived in these areas then as well as by images of the sites today. This portion of the project is intended to demonstrate one of the ways in which the census can be connected to the built spatial environment.

"Transcription" presents a digital image of one page of the 1838 census transcribed in accompanying tables. Within each table, addresses are linked to maps that help one to situate households geographically within the city.

"Additional Resources" provides bibliographic notations for primary documents pertaining to the census. This includes detailed information regarding the collections that hold original copies of these documents. In addition to primary documents, there are also a number of secondary sources that employ data from the census in their arguments. I include these sources as examples of how other scholars have drawn from the census.


About the Project
Historical Context
Places and People
Additional Resources