Mabel O. Wilson, Associate Professor, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and appointed Senior Fellow at the Institute for Research in African American Studies, will give an overview of her research on black participation in world’s fairs.

Navigating through the fairgrounds of the large international expositions staged in the cities of Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, Atlanta, Buffalo, Charleston, Jamestown, and Paris, France, Wilson will examine African-American participation at the great world’s fairs. Along with these large mainstream fairs, it is important to peruse the aisles of the expositions organized by black Americans to commemorate their hard-fought struggle to gain freedom from enslavement. These Emancipation Expositions beginning in 1913 through the 1960s happened in cities with growing black populations—Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, and Detroit. How did World’s Fairs and Emancipation Expositions serve as counter-public spheres for black Americans during the era of Jim Crow segregation? What can we learn from how black Americans built or claimed spaces to reimagine their national belonging and share a collective memory of their past?

Associate Professor Mabel O. Wilson (M.Arch ‘91) teaches architectural design and history/theory courses at Columbia GSAPP. She is also appointed as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Research in African American Studies and co-directs Global Africa Lab. Her design and scholarly research investigates space, politics and cultural memory in black America; race and modern architecture; new technologies and the social production of space; and visual culture in contemporary art, film and new media.

Her transdisciplinary practice Studio And has been a competition finalist for several important cultural institutions including lower Manhattan’s African Burial Ground Memorial and the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture (with Diller Scofidio + Renfro). Exhibitions of her work have been featured at the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s Triennial, the Storefront for Art and Architecture and SF Cameraworks. She is a founding member of Who Builds Your Architecture? (WBYA?)—an advocacy project to educate the architectural profession about the problems of globalization and labor. WBYA’s work was featured at the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennale. In 2011 she was honored as a United States Artists Ford Fellow in architecture and design.

She is the author of Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (University of California Press 2012), which was a runner-up for John Hope Franklin Prize for the best American Studies publication in 2012. Her scholarly essays have appeared in numerous journals and books on critical geography, memory studies, art and architecture. She has received awards, fellowships and residencies from Getty Research Institute, New York State Council for the Arts, and ID magazine. For 2015-2016, she is the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow at the National Gallery of Arts Center for Advanced Study in Visual Arts. She is currently developing the manuscript Building Race and Nation: How Slavery Influenced Antebellum American Civic Architecture and collaborating on a collection of essays on race and modern architecture.

Prof. Wilson received her B.S. in Architecture from University of Virginia, Masters of Architecture from Columbia GSAPP and a Ph.D in American Studies from New York University.