black design in america

Iterative Identity: Art Deco, World’s Fair, and American Limits on Humanity



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We offer our courses and classes at subsidized rates for students, educators, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) individuals.

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One of the key promises of the American Dream made by the automobile industry in the 1930s–1950s was the individual freedom of a car owner on an open road. This was marketed with innovations in advertising, exhibition design, and product design typified by the term “streamlining,” The limited availability of streamlining to Black Drivers was particularly prevalent in the Southern states. Victor Hugo Green, a travel writer and postal worker, saw an opportunity to make “Driving While Black” safer for his fellow Black Americans by publishing his annual Negro Motorist Green Book. Publishing out of his Harlem office, The Green Book was printed annually from 1936 to 1966 and grew from New York City to include the entire United States and international destinations as far away as Mexico and Bermuda.

The discrimination against Black drivers extended to Black homeowners who were restricted from getting quality home loans. Before the 1968 Fair Housing Act was enacted, it was legal for businesses and government entities to discriminate against Black businesses. Similar restrictive conditions were placed on Black Veterans returning from World War I and II. They had been willing to fight and die for an America that wanted to put them “back in their place” upon returning from the European and Asian fronts. Public officials and developers like Robert Moses, who brokered New York City to host the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs that spread Streamlining propaganda, were also racist in their building and urban planning efforts. One of his initiatives, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, divided predominantly Black neighborhoods from public parks and public transportation access. This legacy of urban disenfranchisement was recreated in other U.S. cities like Miami and Los Angeles.

This class is available to purchase individually, or at a discounted rate when the course pass is purchased.


  • Omari Souza

    Omari Souza is a communication design program instructor with seven years of teaching experience as an assistant professor in the Communication Design program at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas. He organized the online State of Black Design Conference in April 2021. He previously organized...
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Licenses for institutional use are available and customizable to fit your needs. Contact us at [email protected] to provide your students, employees, and designers with access to our BIPOC Design History Course.

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