Generations before Rosa Parks kept her seat, before Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and before the sit-ins and hoses and the long march to Washington, Atlanta sat at the cusp between post-Civil War Reconstruction and the struggle for civil rights. The year was 1895. The setting was the Cotton States and International Exposition presenting a New South to the nation and the world. The place was the Negro Building, which officially opened a month after Booker T. Washington’s speech historic speech, later labeled The Atlanta Compromise.
Atlanta’s Negro Building marked the first time a global audience witnessed the work of African Americans, in their own building, since Emancipation, only 30 years before.Washington’s speech and the Negro Building’s exhibits, speeches, and conferences - and the building itself - stimulated debates that began, what Mabel O. Wilson, author of Negro Building: Black Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums, called a “black counterpublic.” Although the Cotton States Exposition and the Negro Building existed only for three months in the fall of 1895, the building and this“black counterpublic,” that surrounded it form the early beginnings of the civil rights movement.
Today, more than a hundred years later, as one walks or bikes through the gate from Charles Allen Drive into Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, the ghost of the former 25,000 square foot Negro Building is immediately to the right. The site is empty, the building forgotten, its significance lost. It is time to commemorate the Negro Building as an important site in the long struggles for civil rights in Atlanta and America. The time is now.
The Negro Building Remembrance Competition aims to do just that -- to bring the Negro Building into public memory in bold, imaginative and provocative ways.The Competition is looking for ideas from diverse disciplines, media and sources of inspiration. As competitors craft their proposals, they should consider the former site of the Negro Building, the building itself and its exhibits and conferences, the historical context of Atlanta and the South, and America’s struggles for civil and human rights.
Three first prizes and several runner-ups will be awarded by a nationally prominent jury of architects, artists, writers,landscape architects and historians.
Announcements will be forthcoming for the competition brief, the members of the jury, site information, and resource materials for competitors.