• Model Schools in the Model City: Race, Planning, and Education in the Nation's Capital
    Amber N. Wiley
    University of Pittsburgh Press, 2025
    Amber N. Wiley

Mathew Brady, “Contraband school at Camp Baker,” Washington, DC, 1862. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration, War Department, Office of the Chief Signal Officer, ca. 1861–65

For Black Americans, access to educational resources has been a tool of liberation, from the antebellum period to present. This book chronicles how Black Washingtonians used public education as a means of racial uplift, in the face of entrenched white resistance and repeated assertions of white supremacy. It was the school building—a permanent structure, made of sturdy material—that was the physical realization of Black liberation, agency, and their right to exist as citizens of the United States. Furthermore, it was the school building that stood as the litmus test to whether Black Washingtonians’ citizenship was perpetually guaranteed. They fought with all the tools at their disposal—lobbying Congress, creating political liaisons with activists across the country, proposing land reform policies, expanding Black architects’ oeuvre to include school design—to maintain access to quality education in the nation’s capital.

Amber N. Wiley is the Matt and Erika Nord Director of the Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites (CPCRS) and Presidential Associate Professor in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. Her research interests center on the social aspects of design and how it affects urban communities—architecture as a literal and figurative structure of power. She focuses on the ways local and national bodies have made the claim for the dominating narrative and collective memory of cities and examines how preservation and public history contribute to the creation and maintenance of the identity and sense of place of a city. Her publications cover African American and African diasporic cultural heritage, urbanism in New Orleans, school design, urban renewal, and preservation.