“Not To Scale”: Mapping Race in a Virginia Historically Black Community



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 21, Issue 1, 98, Article first published online: 15 March 2013


In 1998 Union, Virginia was officially recognized as a historically black community. In the same year Ernest Greene, a white former resident, drew a map of Union as he remembered it from his youth, qualifying it with the note “not to scale.” While the state sees Union as homogeneously “black,” Mr. Greene's map depicts Union as equally homogeneously “white.” The African American social terrain was omitted entirely, while “white” structures were re-scaled to obscure conspicuous blank spots on the map. Considering the map as a social text, this cartographic act is seen as a reflection of the power and politics of creating written, material “historical facts,” and a statement about legitimacy and belonging.