Black Resilience

Curated by NOMA of Central Texas

Curated by NOMA of Central Texas, Black Resilience highlights places and spaces that were designed by Black architects and/or play a significant role in Austin’s Black community. The tour begins in Clarksville, the oldest surviving freedman’s district west of the Mississippi River, and from there traces the forced eastward migration of Austin’s Black community following the City’s adoption of the segregationist 1928 Master Plan.

Anyone who questions the longstanding impacts of systemic racism need look no further than the 1928 Master Plan for an example of the devastation wrought by such practices. The plan established a six-square-mile “Negro District” in East Austin, and subsequently cut off infrastructure to existing Black communities outside of that area. Combined with real estate redlining—a practice in which banks refused home loans to Black applicants in certain neighborhoods—the 1928 Master Plan forced the relocation of thousands of Black citizens to East Austin, where they faced flooding, substandard housing, and poor access to schools and public services. The negative ramifications of this policy have continued well into the 21st century: a 2015 study found that the Austin metropolitan area had the highest level of economic segregation among all 350 U.S. metropolitan areas.

Despite these structural challenges, Austin’s Black community continued to thrive, as evidenced by historical places like the Victory Grill, Downs Field, and Wesley United Methodist Church. Particularly inspiring are the works of John S. Chase—the first licensed Black architect in the American South—who left an impressive architectural legacy in homes and churches across East Austin.

Narratives for this tour were written by Albert Condarco, AIA; Meredith Contello, AIA; David Heymann, FAIA; Maanasa Nathan; Sabrina Ortiz Luna, Assoc. AIA; Jasmin Peisel, Assoc. AIA; Raymond Santana-Linares, AIA; and Oscar Yanez. Additional editorial and coordination were provided by Bud Franck, AIA; and Courtney Mallen, Assoc. AIA. Photography was provided by Bud Franck, with additional images contributed by Leonid Furmansky, James & Penny Moore, Patrick Wong/Atelier Wong Photography, and Origin Studio House.

Rooted in a rich legacy of activism, the mission of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) is to empower local chapters and membership to foster justice and equity in communities of color through outreach, community advocacy, professional development and design excellence.

Places & Spaces in This Tour