Amaza Lee Meredith Imagines Herself Modern
Architecture and the Black American Middle Class
288 pp., 6 x 10 in, 67 b&w illus., 18 color plates
- Published: November 28, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
The extraordinary life and work of architect Amaza Lee Meredith, and the role modernism and material culture played in the aspiring Black American middle class of the early twentieth century.
Amaza Lee Meredith Imagines Herself Modern tells the captivating story of Amaza Lee Meredith, a Black woman architect, artist, and educator born into the Jim Crow South, whose bold choices in both life and architecture expand our understanding of the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance, while revealing the importance of architecture as a force in Black middle-class identity. Through her charismatic protagonist, Jacqueline Taylor derives new insights into the experiences of Black women at the forefront of culture in early twentieth-century America, caught between expectation and ambition, responsibility and desire.
Central to Taylor's argument is that Meredith's response to modern architecture and art, like those of other Black cultural producers, was not marginal to the modernist project; instead, her work reveals the tensions and inconsistencies in how American modernism has been defined. In this way, the book shines a necessary light on modernism's complexity, while overturning perceived notions of race and gender in relation to the modernist project and challenging the notion of the white male hero of modern architecture.