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Charlette Caldwell

Charlette Caldwell is currently a doctoral student and a Provost Diversity Fellow studying the history and theory of architecture at Columbia University. Her research focuses broadly on nineteenth-century American architecture through a vernacular architectural perspective. Her main research interprets the historical evolution of “selfhood” and “personhood” by studying architecture created or patronized by historically marginalized groups living in nineteenth-century United States. This work utilizes public history archives such as oral histories, minority-owned periodical archives, and church and burial inventories along with recording and documenting historically significant places or places yet to be designated as “historic”. Charlette received a bachelor’s in Architecture from Syracuse University and a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from the Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. Charlette’s work has been supported by the Weitzman’s Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites, where she worked as a Research Fellow; the Society of Architectural Historians, where she serves on the Graduate Student Advisory Committee; and the Historic American Building Survey; and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Charlette was also the Sally-Kress Tompkins Fellow in the summer of 2021.
Charlette’s dissertation examines how cultural, economic, and political processes influenced architecture of the African Methodist Episcopal Church before its official founding in 1816 and through the early decades of the twentieth century. Although the importance of the AME Church has been solidified in scholarship as a crucial piece in the creation of the Black Church, architectural history has yet to fully investigate this institution’s building practices and how these practices either contradicted or reflected perceptions of “Blackness”. This study looks to unearth how Black church building participated in conversations related to class and identity amongst AME leadership and laypeople, demonstrating how the AME culture of building formed within a crucible marred by the vestiges of slavery and violence in the United States. Thus, this architectural narrative explores regional and national trends in AME Church architecture, showing various spatial counternarratives that complicate history’s understanding of racialized minorities as architectural protagonists.