Sharon Egretta Sutton (M.Arch '73)
in conversation with Reinhold Martin, Mabel O. Wilson, and Senator Bill Perkins
When Ivory Towers Were Black (Fordham University Press, 2016) tells the untold story of how an unparalleled cohort of ethnic minority students earned degrees from Columbia University’s School of Architecture during the Civil Rights Movement. The book follows two university units that steered the school toward an emancipatory approach to education, in particular the school’s Division of Planning, revealing fierce struggles to open the ivory tower to ethnic minority students and to involve them, and their revolutionary white peers, in improving Harlem’s slum conditions. It tracks the unraveling of this groundbreaking experiment as white lash against reforms wrought by civil rights legislation grew. Through its first-person portrayal of how a transformative process got reversed, When Ivory Towers Were Black can catalyze contemporary struggles for equality as crushing race- and place-based injustices multiply and historically marginalized students remain excluded from the elite city-making professions.