Designing Progress: Race, Gender and Modernism in Early 20th-Century America
Taylor, Jacqueline, History of Art and Architecture - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Wilson, Richard Guy, Architectural History, University of Virginia
In the late 1930s Amaza Lee Meredith (1895-1984), an African American woman from Lynchburg, Virginia, designed and built a modern style house for herself and her female companion on the grounds of Virginia State College. Between the wars, she studied at Columbia Teacher’s College in New York, receiving a BA in Fine Art in 1930, and an MA in Art Education in 1935, under a curriculum designed by Arthur Wesley Dow. Remarkably, unlike many African Americans who relocated north to take advantage of training and employment opportunities, including those artists who sought the community support of Harlem’s cultural network, Meredith returned to the rural South. Here, at her alma mater, Virginia State College, where she had earned a teaching certificate in 1922, Meredith established the art department and implemented a progressive art curriculum, teaching art production and art appreciation. In addition, Amaza Lee Meredith practiced architecture as a personal and community endeavor, designing homes for friends and family and planning a vacation community for African Americans on Long Island’s Sag Harbor, once a whaling village and now a cosseted resort for African American elite.
Examining Amaza Lee Meredith’s life and work through a multidisciplinary lens, this dissertation provides a re-thinking of the New Negro Movement, New Womanhood, and American art and architecture between the wars, enriching theories of gender, race, and sexuality in illustrating the significance of aesthetics in the formation of a modern African American identity.
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
modern architecture, New Negro, New Woman, African American art
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