ARC Fellow, Marta Gutman, Presents: “Segregated by Design in New Orleans: Modern Architecture, Education, and Equalization Schools during the Civil Rights Movement”
I propose this seminar topic: equalization schools in New Orleans where the segregated dual system of public education remained firmly entrenched in the 1950s. As the school board dug in its heels, it hired Nathaniel C. Curtis and Arthur Q. Davis (the architects who would go on to design I.S. 201) to design new schools for black children—schools that showed “separate is equal.” I will feature the Thomy Lafon Elementary School, opened in Back-of-Town in 1952, and touted to this day as an architectural exemplar of a modern, transparent, child-centered public school. Widely publicized, the award-winning school was included in an exhibit sent to the Soviet Union in 1959. However these facts were repressed—the Lafon school, racially segregated and too small, was an equalization school, intended to ingrain inequality and defeat desegregation during the Civil Rights movement.
Marta Gutman teaches architectural and urban history at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York and The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she is a member of the doctoral faculty in Art History and Earth and Environmental Sciences. In fall 2018 she will be the Distinguished CUNY Fellow at the Advanced Research Collaborative, working on her current book project, Just Space: Architecture, Education, and Inequality in Postwar Urban America (University of Texas Press). Gutman examines ordinary buildings and neighborhoods, the history of cities, and issues of gender, class, race, and especially childhood as they play out in the everyday spaces, public culture, and social life of cities in the United States. Times Higher Ed named her monograph, A City for Children: Women, Architecture, and the Charitable Landscapes of Oakland, 1850-1950 (University of Chicago Press) a book of the year in 2014, calling it “a monumental achievement.” A City for Children is also the winner of the 2017 Spiro Kostof Award from the Society of Architectural Historians, the 2015 Kenneth Jackson Award from the Urban History Association, and other prizes. Gutman has also written about the WPA swimming pools in New York City (showing how kids racially integrated them), edited Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum from 2009 to 2015, and co-edited the critically acclaimed Designing Modern Childhoods: History, Space and Material Culture (Rutgers University Press).