Recreating Du Bois' 7th Ward
Aunt Jemima is an iconic trademark image for pancake mix and syrup, but for Michael Franklin '12, she is also an essential part of the race depiction and eugenics research he is conducting as part of his summer internship with the Mapping Du Bois Project at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. Franklin, an English major, is one of 20 Haverford students who received summer stipends from the Hurford '60 Humanities Center to pursue internships at local organizations.
The Mapping Du Bois Project is an effort aimed at educating high school students about race relations in the 7th Ward of Philadelphia through a discussion based on W.E.B. Du Bois' 1899 book, The Philadelphia Negro. Franklin is helping to develop a high school curriculum that draws upon the book and many supplementary sources from the 1890's including the Philadelphia Business Directories and Criminal Records and Frederick L. Hoffman's Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro. By combining statistics and the observations of W.E.B. Du Bois, Franklin hopes to create a portrait of black Philadelphia at the turn of the century that is both historically accurate and relevant to students today. The curriculum will incorporate a variety of creative tools to enhance the understanding of Du Bois' work and race relations in Philadelphia, including board games, documentaries, and an online map.
Franklin is the most recent in a series of Haverford students who have contributed to the project, including Patrick Lozada '11, Alexa Kutler '11 and Julia Dunbar '10. Lozada and Kutler spent last summer helping with the creation of a 20-minute documentary about Du Bois' work and life, and Dunbar spent the summer of 2009 developing a board game called“Surviving the Seventh Ward.”
“The Philadelphia Negro was ground breaking because of how in-depth Du Bois' process was when he surveyed the Seventh Ward, which was the heart of Philadelphia's African American community during the late 19th, early 20th century,” says Franklin.“Du Bois went from door to door, to every house, business, and establishment in the Seventh Ward gathering data on its inhabitants. My job as research assistant is to fill in the narratives that are not being explicitly told [using] the many charts and graphs that Du Bois compiled in his book.”
Franklin is accomplishing this in multiple ways. He's conducting research on the effects of eugenics and scientific racism on the everyday life of the people in the Seventh Ward. His work is focused on how society depicted African Americans figures such as Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima, who became well-known brand images for rice and pancakes. Franklin has also spent time exploring the neighborhoods that Du Bois surveyed and mapped.
Franklin is working on the continued development of the Mapping Du Bois board game as well. This project has required him to work with graphic design firms and gather more research on the culture of the Seventh Ward at the turn of the 20th century. Such a multi-disciplinary approach towards education excites Franklin, who also has a strong background in the arts. During his time at Haverford, he has taken dance classes at Bryn Mawr, performed with the Bi-College dance troupe Pulso Latino and the Tri-College dance troupe Rhythm N Motion, and acted in many Bi-College musical theatre productions including Hair, Urinetown and Into the Woods. As a freshman, Franklin organized a group called Make Art Happen, whose goal was to make art a more prominent part of student life.
--Jacob Lowy '14