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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Architecture and Landscapes of Segregation: An Historical Look at the Built Environment of Educational Facilities in the United States


Within the field of landscape architecture and architecture, historians and critics often have sought to view the “college campus as art.” This concept portrays the individual buildings as a collection of artifacts, giving little attention to the cultural and historical meanings of space, both surrounding the buildings and between the buildings. Studies of this nature tend to focus on styles, motifs, and artistic significance of individual edifices. Likewise, historic architectural studies examine the importance that buildings have in relation to their adornments, their design motifs, and their artists or architects who created them. This analysis challenges these values and associations through an evaluation of historically black college and university campuses (HBCU’s) and “segregated public schools” of the Southern United States. Through a review of literature on court cases about school segregation and an examination of built environments, this article suggests that architectural and landscape studies are important in conveying notions of inferiority and tradition that were used in segregation cases across the United States. The case studies in this analysis jointly express how architecture and landscape represent and shape race relations in the United States and address shortcomings in the literature of architecture and landscapes that fail to show a connection between the antebellum and postbellum lives of African Americans in the United States. A comprehensive understanding of segregation requires an investigation of spatial and built environments to analyze the feelings and experiences of people throughout time, rather than a simple focus on historic events.

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