Books to Explore African American Architecture

By Roger Smith – Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Designs war housing projects” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1939 – 1945., Public Domain, Link

I love nothing more than to explore historic homes and buildings throughout the South, especially those with connections to African American history and culture. Behind these buildings are African American architects, creating structures with design, usability, and culture in mind. To examine this topic, even more, I have curated Books to Explore African American Architecture. Check out the list below and share your favorite images of African American architecture in the South with us by using the hashtag #blacksouthernbell

Books to Explore African American Architecture

Black Built: History and Architecture in the Black Community

While Black architects produce extraordinary works, they account for only two percent of the profession in the United States. Many of their works exist in the Black community and have helped preserve and restore history and culture. Though architecture is often not associated with Black Culture, it is an integral aspect in defining a community and requires careful consideration of design, context, and resident relationships.

This book explores over forty works by Black architects and their impact in the Black community. A wide variety of projects are featured, from residences of affluent African Americans, to historic churches, to memorials and museums of Black culture and history. Each work, through brief examination of its history and architecture, exhibits the magnificent work of Black architects from past to present, and provides inspiration to architects of current and future generations.

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Built by Blacks: African American Architecture and Neighborhoods in Richmond (American Heritage)

Richmond’s vast and varied collection of architecture provides an archive of African American history. Author Selden Richardson explains how iconic symbols of old Richmond and the generations of black laborers who helped assemble it are embodied in both the preserved and the forgotten architecture of the city.

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Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Rising on the National Mall next to the Washington Monument, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a tiered bronze beacon inviting everyone to learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience and how it helped shape this nation. Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture is the story of how this unparalleled museum found its place in the nation’s collective memory and on its public commons. 

Begin with the Past presents the long history of efforts to build a permanent place to collect, study, and present African American history and culture. In 2003 the museum was officially established at long last, yet the work of the museum was only just beginning. The book traces the appointment of the director, the selection of the site, and the process of conceiving, designing, and constructing a public monument to the achievements and contributions of African Americans. The careful selection of architects, designers, and engineers culminated in a museum that embodies African American sensibilities about space, form, and material and incorporates rich cultural symbols into the design of the building and its surrounding landscape. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a place for all Americans to understand our past and embrace our future, and this book is a testament to the inspiration and determination that went into creating this unique place.

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The Crisis of the African-American Architect: Conflicting Cultures of Architecture and (Black) Power 

” another missing piece of our rich history and profound contribution to western civilization. For history buffs please put this book on your must read list… “George C. Fraser, Author of Race For Success andSuccess Runs In Our Race”[Mitchell] believes that the entire future of blacks in the field of architecture is in jeopardy He then discusses the impact of the Harlem Renaissance on black architecture and the subsequent emergence of Howard University as the center of the black architectural universe…”The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education” seminal ” Architecture MagazineIn this long overdue book, aimed at Black America and her allies, Melvin Mitchell poses the question “why haven’t black architects developed a Black Architecture that complements modernist black culture that is rooted in world-class blues, jazz, hip-hop music, and other black aesthetic forms?” His provocative thesis, inspired by Harold Cruse’s landmark book, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, exposes the roots of an eighty-year-old estrangement between black architects and Black America.Along the way he provides interesting details about the politics of downtown development in the Marion Barry era of Washington, DC. Mitchell calls for a bold and inclusive “New (Black) Urbanism.” He sees the radical reform and “re-missioning” of the handful of accredited HBCU based architecture schools as a critical tool in refashioning a rapprochement between black architects and Black America.

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African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945

African-American architects have been designing and building houses and public buildings since 1865. Although many of these structures survive today, the architects themselves are virtually unknown. This unique reference work brings their lives and work to light for the first time. Written by 100 experts ranging from architectural historians to archivists, this book contains 160 biographical, A-Z entries on African-American architects from the era of Emancipation to the end of World War II. Articles provide biographical facts about each architect, and commentary on his or her work. Practical and accessible, this reference is complemented by over 200 photographs and includes an appendix containing a list of buildings by geographic location and by architect.

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Michiel Perry

Michiel is a Black Southern Belle living a lowcountry life. I love all things fashion, home decor and southern! When I am not running around doing fun stuff for Black Southern Belle, I live in antique stores and have a minor obsession with historic homes 🙂

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