A Pretty 1940 Map of American Diversity, Annotated by Langston Hughes

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Jan. 13 2014 12:20 PM

A Pretty 1940 Map of American Diversity, Annotated by Langston Hughes

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

This map, issued by the Council Against Intolerance in America in 1940, shows the ethnic groups living in the United States, offering a picture of their geographical locations, typical employment, and religious commitments. The document was owned by poet Langston Hughes, and is collected in his papers at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The map omits state boundaries, opting instead to show the mix of ethnic groups by area. For heavily-populated areas, such as the Northeast or Chicago, pop-out keys framed with line drawings of people engaged in typical industries show the diversity of urban citizenry.

Advertisement

The Council Against Intolerance, a New York group active from the late 1930s through the mid-1940s, was founded by left-leaning Jewish author James Waterman Wise. Wise is notable for having warned of the dangers of Nazism in several books as early as 1933.

The Council’s educational department printed teachers’ manuals and books to be used in adult reading groups. The group’s rhetoric was pro-American, arguing in its materials that prejudice would undermine national unity in a time of war.

The map’s images in the Southern part of the United States, of African-American and white sharecroppers bent together over bales of cotton, seem to have provoked Hughes to commentary. In a red pen (now faded to pink), he drew a burning cross near the workers, writing “KKK” underneath.

Alongside an illustration of a textile factory, Hughes added an ironic reference (and possibly a nod to the song “Ol’ Man River,” from the 1927 musical “Show Boat”): “Tote that cotton—Roll that bale!”

Click on the image to zoom.

EthnicToleranceMapFinal

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.

TODAY IN SLATE

The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

Walmart Is Crushing the Rest of Corporate America in Adopting Solar Power

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 21 2014 12:05 PM Same-Sex Couples at Home With Themselves in 1980s America
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.