Beyond Numbers: A History of the U.S. Census
To mark the culmination of Census 2010, BackStory takes on the fascinating story of how Americans have counted themselves throughout our nation’s history. As it turns out, the idea of doling out power based on the actual number of people in a region was an American innovation. The History Guys explain what was so revolutionary about the concept in 1787, and explore how assumptions about who counts as an American have shifted over time. They also look at the reasons the “undercount” became such an important issue in the 20th century, and consider the ways Americans’ suspicion of government has posed a challenge to the work of the Census Bureau. Over the course of the hour, they are joined by a scholar, former Census workers, and listeners interested in exploring the invisible backbone of American democracy: the U.S. Census.
* Michael Quinn, President of the Montpelier Foundation
* Melissa Nobles, political scientist (Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics)
* Fernando Armstrong, Philadelphia Regional Director of the U.S. Census Bureau
* Vincent Barabba, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, 1973-76 & 1979-81
* Al Marquart, Enumerator for the 1940 Census
Hear more stories from the 1940, 1980, and 1990 Censuses in these extended interviews of Vincent Barabba, Al Marquart, and UVa professor Peter Norton. Listen here.
Want to dig deeper into Census history? The BackStory research team has compiled a comprehensive list of resources for further exploration. Read on.