2018 Magliocco Lecture: Dr. Adrienne Brown

What do Magliocco SP 18you think of when you look at a skyscraper?

Perhaps you imagine the view from the top floor, or maybe you visualize the impressive skyline a group of skyscrapers can make. But have you ever thought about their connection to racial tension?

The Maurine Magliocco Lecture Series, which is funded by former WIU professor Dr. Magliocco’s generous donation, is a yearly event in which a prestigious speaker comes to share their experiences and knowledge. This year Dr. Adrienne Brown gave a presentation about her recently published book The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race.

Dr. Brown has spent many years delving into two academic realms: literature and architecture. In her book, the two worlds come together as she analyzes the skyscraper as symbolic of racial tension, specifically between black and white Americans. Researching literature involving skyscrapers and hunting down texts in various archives, she became particularly fascinated with the perception of skyscrapers in the 1930’s. In a general sense, the white Americans of the time seemed mystified by sky scrapers, but black Americans were not “under the skyscrapers’ spell.” The early skyscrapers not only brought on charged responses from the American people, they also coincided with the rise of Jim Crow laws and the One Drop Rule. Dr. Brown’s presentation mentioned these factors, but focused more on the process and “behind-the-scenes” of the research.

She took us from the spark of her interest in architecture, which came from her college roommate, to where she plans to go next in her academic adventures. And between these points, we witnessed examples of texts she read, anecdotes about the process, and various facts of the 1930’s. One big point of emphasis of this was the period focusing on physicalization of race, or the idea that race is in the body. America was asking questions about race at the time, questions that often seemed to see whiteness as a default.

Dr. Brown’s lecture took us on a journey from inspiration to publication, through racially-charged questions, prejudices, and perceptions. In the future, Dr. Brown will be moving from architecture to real estate and social perception.

If you want to know more about Dr. Brown’s research, check out the links below, and check out next year’s Magliocco Lecture!