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