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Celebrating Black Culture in Urban Planning

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

Portraits of black planners (male and female)
Left to Right: W.E.B Dubois, Mary Pattillo, Gordon Parks, Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III, John Hope Franklin, Samuel J. Cullers, William Julius Wilson, Dorothy Mae Richardson

To close out Black History Month, Karp Strategies would like to celebrate the rich history and impacts of Black culture in urban planning by highlighting influential figures and organizations in this space. As a diverse firm in this field, we are proud to acknowledge this history and deploy its lessons learned in the work we do every day.

The American Planning Association has compiled a list of 11 of the most influential Black urbanists, including luminaries like W.E.B. DuBois and contemporaries like Mary Patillo. The individuals on this list are considered pioneers in the field, many of whom brought their sociological and activist backgrounds to approach planning.

Modern Black urbanists are cited as leading the fight for more inclusive cities by approaching modern solutions with a historical lens. Building on these legacies, Black + urban, a platform for elevating the voices of Black, Latino, Indigenous, and other underrepresented urban planners, highlights the seven critical objectives of Black planners to remodel communities and the general profession over the next decade. These objectives focus on equity and engagement as vehicles to prioritize healthy cities, social justice, and uplifting Black businesses and social entrepreneurs.

As for modern trailblazing organizations, BlackSpace Urbanist Collective is composed of 200 Black designers, architects, artists, and urban planners based in Brooklyn. It is committed to Black-centered planning and design through community workshops, planning exercises, and cooperative design efforts.

This is just a small sample of the enormous contributions of Black people to the field of urban planning. Is there someone else to add to the list? Please comment below.


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