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Black Built Environment: race and architecture in America

Introduction

This Research Guide demonstrates a range of approaches to the built environment that celebrates the leadership and contributions of Black Americans and acknowledges the many forces that coalesce to impact Black communities across the country. The “ownership” and labor of this collection is a shared one: not just between my collaborators and me, but with you and the many researchers whose curious and knowing minds take part in and contribute to this endless pursuit of knowledge. The hope is that this is not a fixed resource, but rather one that will continue to grow as we individually and collectively learn. We welcome suggestions for further additions and edits. Please use the link at the bottom of this page.

A bit about this guide

The structure of this guide follows a traditional pedagogical framework in some ways which is not meant as an endorsement of such silo-ing, but may be helpful to researchers as they explore the subject. Education and the Profession are grouped together; likewise Policy and Planning; Black Aesthetics and Theory are separate from the Architects and Firms doing the work; Black Built discusses specific built work (real or imagined) by typology or location, or a singular project; and finally, Additional Resources provides a variety of different resources related to each of these categories and more.

A word about words

When conducting research, it’s important to familiarize oneself with the related terminology especially because the use of words and terms can change over time. In the context of this guide, search terms ranged from “Black/black,” “African-American,” “negro,” and "colored." “People of Color” generally refers to a broader group of ethnicities, but may be of use depending on your research topic. For an overview of the historical, social, and political dynamics of these terms, please refer to Tom Smith's "Changing Racial Labels: From "Colored" to "Negro" to "Black" to "African American"" published in The Public Opinion Quarterly (Winter 1992), Ben L. Martin's "From Negro to Black to African American: The Power of Names and Naming" published in Political Science Quarterly (Spring 1991), and "Black Identity and the Power of Self-Naming" by M. Keith Claybrook, Jr. published on Black Perspectives (, the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS).

My positionality

For context, I am an Asian-Canadian information professional. I completed an MSc Built Environment: Architectural History at University College London, and worked in architecture and design for nearly 15 years in the UK, Canada, and USA. I don’t consider myself an expert in this area, but I continue to learn and be in dialogue with others on these subjects when and where I can.

Many thanks

I’d like to acknowledge several people whose support, input, and inspiration helped make this happen:

Drey Jonathan, Torsten Lange, Susan Nwankpa-Gillespie, Enrico Dagostini, the librarians at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture including Rhonda Evans, the librarians at the Architecture Library at City College New York - City University New York, the librarians at the Museum of Modern Art including Jillian Suarez and Kendra Farrell, the librarians at New York University Libraries, the librarians at Pratt Institute Libraries including Nicholas Dease, Dean Anthony Cocciolo of Pratt Institute's School of Information, and Mary Jo Bolduc at the American Library Association.

This project has been supported by a Carnegie Whitney Grant from the American Library Association.

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