Construction and Slavery

Parsons School of Design: Art/Design Hist & Theory

Liberal Arts

Undergraduate Course

Graduate Course

Degree Students

Construction and Slavery

Spring 2022

Taught By: Jonah Rowen

Section: A

CRN: 12393

Credits: 3

Architecture requires labor. Black enslaved people worked to construct buildings for the entire period of Atlantic slavery. Enslaved builders contributed to producing every significant constructed environment of the Americas and the Caribbean during those territories' colonial eras and after. These range from governmental-administrative spaces and monuments down to agricultural facilities. They include White slaveholders' lavish dwellings, enslaved people's houses, and urban buildings. Enslaved workers dredged land to build Washington, D.C., and transformed barren landscapes into productive plantations. As skilled joiners, masons, and unskilled laborers, enslaved people constructed the landscapes of enslavement in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. They cut down trees for export to Europe as building materials in the triangular trade, and created wealth for absentee landowners to spend on building estates and mansions. This course will analyze such projects by asking who built them, where their construction materials came from, trace the sources of capital expended on those materials, and consider the land on which they are sited. Taking a comparative approach, this course will span in geography across four continents. We will consider traditional African construction techniques and their adaptations in the Americas, in addition to slave castles on the West African Coast. We will study labor camps, as well as enslaved people's urban dwellings in Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America. Comparing European enslavers' country houses to their counterparts on plantations in the Americas, we will chart the capital that financed such construction. Finally, we will turn to urban projects built by Black enslaved people, or for formerly enslaved people. How do we confront archival absences that omit the identities of the people who built these buildings? Where people appear only incidentally, can architecture's materiality provide alternative forms of evidence? Questions like these will prompt interdisciplinary inquiry across histories of race, economics, environments, and aesthetics.

Open to: All university graduate degree students.

College: Parsons School of Design (PS)

Department: Art/Design Hist & Theory (PGHT)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 15

Add/Drop Deadline: February 6, 2022 (Sunday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 17, 2022 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 6:22pm 6/29/2022 EDT

Meeting Info:

Days: Tuesday

Times: 4:00pm - 6:40pm

Building: 6 East 16th Street

Room: 734

Date Range: 1/25/2022 - 5/10/2022