black design in america

Systems of Slavery and White Supremacy



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Slavery was a designed system that expanded into a mechanized and colonial tool of European empires. The proliferation of design products marketed to Africans on the continent, such as the Dutch wax prints of the company now known as Vlisco, have their origins in the Netherlands’ imperial presence in Indonesia. These Dutch wax fabrics proliferated mainly in West Africa in countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal. In parallel in the East African countries Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, local African designers created Kanga–a community authored cloth garment that speaks cultural norms through distinctive patterns and Swahili phrases typeset in Arabic and Latin Alphabets.

The Kanga’s high-quality cloth was printed with resist, block, or hand-painted African visual language on bolts of fabric steam milled in Massachusetts made from white cotton picked in the Carolinas. The enslaved Africans in the insidious Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade labored to produce the cotton as a commodity sold back to Africans in a system designed to enslave black bodies.

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


  • Ziddi Msangi

    Ziddi Msangi, a designer and educator, holds an MFA in Graphic Design from Cranbrook Academy of Art (1996). He was born in Tanzania and moved to California as a child. This early experience fostered an awareness and curiosity about histor...
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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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