Lecture Description

The decades after the American Revolution form a critical moment during which the nation’s civic architecture developed its particular stylistic character and symbolic significance. It was also in this period that notions of citizenship and the formation of the racial paradigm of human difference merged with myths of a bountiful continent that would nurture an American civilization, whose cultural values its new civic architecture was designed to symbolize. Paradoxically, enslaved blacks, defined solely as “property” lacking the faculties to be self-aware and self-possessed, built a significant number of the civic buildings designed by the nation’s first architects: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, and William Thornton. The land—as property—on which the new nation’s civic buildings were erected had been taken from Native Americans by centuries of white settler colonialism and deadly forced removals. Wilson’s lecture explores how how race informed the discourses on slavery, nationalism, aesthetics, technology and architecture during this formative period.


Jefferson Race

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