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To erect above the ruined auction-block institutions of learning: race-women, industrial education, and the artifacts of nation-making in the Jim Crow South

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Racial uplift became an acceptable forum for women's activism at the end of the nineteenth century only after women had endured for years the dual biases of racial and gender discrimination, both from within the Black community and from without. African American women's educational reform efforts were a primary force in creating a Black nationalist forum during the 1890s through the design and construction of normal and industrial schools in the South. This article contends that these women reformers were in fact modelling a kind of political architecture through the building of these race-based educational landscapes. Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, founder of the Voorhees Industrial School in Denmark, South Carolina, used the built environment as a political vehicle for communicating the collective needs of the race while establishing a social countermovement as Black Victorians. Wright saw education not only as a remedy for years of chattel slavery but also as a way of expanding the limited role of women in the often male-dominated process of Black community building through space-making. African American women were uniquely aware of the spatial power their social welfare institutions had in the making of what were radical agendas for social change and collective race-based advancement.
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Keywords: architecture; gender; nationalism; race; uplift

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Maryland.

Publication date: 2005-12-01

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