MABEL O. WILSON /// Design & Racism 2: “Can the Master’s Tools Dismantle the Master’s House?”



This second conversation of the series complementing the latest issue of The Funambulist Magazine dedicated to Design & Racism borrows its title from Audre Lorde’s words cited by Mabel O. Wilson at the beginning of the “Critical Dialogues on Race and Modern Architecture” that she organized at Columbia University in February 2016. Throughout this discussion, we talk about architecture’s historical and contemporary contribution to the American structural racism against Black bodies.

Professor Mabel O. Wilson teaches architectural design and history/theory courses at Columbia University’s GSAPP. She is also appointed as a Research Fellow at the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) and co-directs Global Africa Lab (GAL). In 2011 she was honored as a United States Artists Ford Fellow in architecture and design. She has authored Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (University of California Press 2012), runner-up for John Hope Franklin Prize for the best American Studies publication in 2012 and Begin with the Past: The Building of National African American Museum of History and Culture published by Smithsonian books in 2016. She is currently the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow (2015-2016) at the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in Visual Art where she is developing the manuscript for Building Race and Nation: How Slavery Influenced the Civic Architecture of Antebellum America.




– Mabel O. Wilson, “Tell Slavery’s Violent Story Through its Architecture,” Al Jazeera America, April 2015.
– Mabel O. Wilson and Heidi J. Nast, “Lawful Transgressions: This Is the House That Jackie Built,” in Assemblage, August 1994.
– Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case For Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014.


– Mabel O. Wilson, Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums, University of California Press, 2012.
– Mabel O. Wilson, Begin with the Past: The Building of National African American Museum of History and Culture , Smithsonian Books, 2016.
– Denise Ferreira da Silva, Toward a Global Idea of Race, xi-xli, University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
– David Bindman, Ape to Apollo: Aesthetics and the Idea of Race in the 18th Century, 11-21. Reaktion, 2002.
– Saidiya Hartmann, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America, Oxford University Press, 1997.