African American Builders and Architects

africanamericanThis exhibition reveals the extraordinary buildings constructed by enslaved and free black artisans and builders during the pre-Civil War era. Although these men were usually uneducated, their skill in woodcarving, brick masonry and ironwork has given North Carolina some of its most treasured landmarks.

The exhibition explores the lives of the slave and free artisans and builders who worked in all areas of the building trade. Slaves trained some of these artisans informally, while others were apprentices for black and white masters. The owners of these slaves hoped that this training would make their slaves more valuable for sale or hire. Free artisans and builders were prominent during this time because of laws that mandated training for free black children. Many free black males learned carpentry, the most common trade for a black male besides farming. Masters of free black apprentices might be black or white, and it was not uncommon for a white artisan to hire both black and white apprentices.

Included in this exhibit are twenty-five panels, which reveal the building style and the tools used by these men. Although these men were trained in the English building traditions, they introduced some African building and architectural characteristics into their work. These panels will communicate this African style and some folkways that were part of the tradition of an enslaved and free black artisan and builder.

Previous Venues: Previous venues include: Bellamy Mansion Museum, Museum of the Albemarle, Tryon Palace, Charlotte African-American Cultural Center, Hayti Heritage Center and Smith McDowell House Museum.

  • Participation Fee: $2000
  • Exhibition Period: 10 to 12 weeks (negotiable)
  • Space Required: 120 linear feet
  • Number of Panels: 25
  • Shipping: Crates