Data

In 1858, a group of ministers associated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church launched a new journal, The Repository of Religion and Literature and of Science and Art. There were already numerous newspapers and magazines aimed at the growing Black reading public, but these ministers – who, Frances Smith Foster tells us, “were also teachers, community activists, and entrepreneurs” – identified an as-yet-unmet need: “To develop the talents of our young people, and to furnish data for future comparison” (2005, 730).

This usage of the term “data,” from over one hundred and fifty years ago, might strike contemporary readers as unusually prescient. And in some ways it was: “data” appears here to mean something like “an empirical observation,” which the Repository’s editors recognized as a potential tool for achieving justice. This commitment to wielding data on behalf of marginalized people anticipated arguments made by contemporary data justice …

This essay may be found on page 82 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay

Leave a Comment