Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, University of Richmond’s Visualizing Emancipation is a data-driven web site that enables users to geographically and temporally visualize the process of emancipation following the Civil War.

The objectives of this project included building an innovative application, exploring new cartographic techniques, combining geography and time in visualizations, leveraging open source technology, and laying the technology framework for a new digital atlas of American History.

Azavea developed visualization tools to display thousands of geographically tagged emancipation events that occurred between 1861 and 1865 including such activities as reports of African Americans helping the Union, notices of fugitive slaves, and insurrections or raids.

These events map documentary evidence of enslaved men and women’s activities and assist in telling the complex story of emancipation. The emancipation events are displayed on a map and as clustered points, which users can click to view information including the date, description, type, and original source of the data. The map also includes a polygon data layer showing the legality of slavery in a particular area and points indicating Union Army locations multiple ways of viewing the actual data.

Users can choose to display heat maps (kernel density) of emancipation events and filter events based on event type, primary source type, date, keyword, or by navigating around the map. The map also includes an animation feature that users can set to see how the location of emancipation events, Union Army locations, and the legality of slavery changed over time. A data submission tool enables users to provide information on emancipation events not already included on the map in order to help create a more complete picture of activities between 1861 and 1865.