Black Lives Matter Project, Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative
Collaborative Essay, March 2015
Written with James D. Graham, Columbia University

In response to a call for essays placing the Black experience at the center of architectural histories, I co-wrote this text discussing Gunnar Birkerts and Associates’ campus master plan for the HBCU and Civil Rights citadel Tougaloo College near Jackson, Mississippi. Discussing the origins of the plan in northern corporate philanthropy and the idea that campus might serve as a “way station” along the Great Migration, we argued that it emblematized a change in the ambitions of the College and its hopes for its graduates. Moving away from a locally-engaged pedagogy of teacher training, Tougaloo increasingly saw itself as a finishing school for those preparing for a move into the professions in the north. The architecture was designed to support this new vision by serving as a pedagogical environment that modeled the population density and racial integration students would encounter in northern cities. But, we conclude, this hardly meant those moving north would not encounter prejudice and racism once they got there.

Construction photograph showing Tougaloo College Library, Jackson, Mississippi designed by Gunnar Birkerts and Associates, ca. 1970. Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.