Landscapes of Exclusion / National Building Museum
The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. is screening the new film Landscapes of Exclusion: State Parks and Jim Crow in the American South on May 22 at 6pm EST. The film is based on the award-winning book of the same title by William E. O’Brien, which was first published by the Library of American Landscape History in 2015 and then reissued as a paperback in 2022.
According to the producers, the film “underscores the profound inequality that persisted for decades in the number, size, and quality of state park spaces provided for Black visitors across the South. Even though it has largely faded from public awareness, the imprint of segregated design remains visible in many state parks.”
In his review of the Landscapes of Exclusion book last year, Glenn LaRue Smith, FASLA, cofounder and principal of PUSH studio in Washington, D.C., and founder and former president of the Black Landscape Architects Network (BlackLAN) wrote: “it presents a mirror with which we can look back and see the profound changes in America, which is greatly needed in our divisive social media age of disinformation and historical erasure.”
A group photo at the bathhouse on Butler Beach in the 1950s, prior to the site’s development as a state park. / Courtesy State Archives of Florida, Library of American Landscape History
“O’Brien’s balanced research on Black self-help to achieve some measure of recreational access in the face of Jim Crow is one of the book’s crowning successes,” LaRue Smith writes. “There are many other well researched elements relating to the history of the ‘Negro Problem,’ park planning and politics, post-World War II ‘separate but equal’ policies, and court battles primarily brought by the NAACP to dismantle park segregation. Together, these research areas build a much-needed historical record of Jim Crow and the exclusion of African Americans in southern state parks.”
The film features commentary by O’Brien, who is a professor of environmental studies at Florida Atlantic University, and architect Arthur J. Clement, who attended a segregated state parks as a child. “Dramatic images and live footage bring this painful history into contemporary focus,” the film producers write.
In collaboration with the National Building Museum, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is presenting this event free of charge. The Olmsted Network and Library of American Landscape History are co-sponsors. And the program is supported by the Darwina L. Neal Cultural Landscape Fund for adult programs focusing on cultural landscapes.
5:30 pm – Doors open
6:00 pm – Film screening
6:30pm – 7:15pm – Panel discussion with William E. O’Brien, Arthur J. Clement, and Wairimũ Ngaruiya Njambi, moderated by ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen.
7.15 – 7.30 pm – Remarks by Bronwyn Nichols Lodato, president of the Midway Plaisance Advisory Council, on behalf of the Olmsted Network
7.30 – 8.30 pm – Reception
The event is free but registration is required. Register today.