PubPol 710.005

PubPol 710.005: Slavery, Its Legacies, and the Built Environment: Creating a Framework for the National Slavery Monument

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Fall 2021
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The Law School's Problem Solving Initiative classes are open to all U-M graduate and professional students. For more information and to register please visit:

Instructors: Luis deBaca (Law), Phillip Bernstein (Architecture)

The built environment bears the stamp of historical slavery and is supported by contemporary forms of forced labor. Architectural practice is hampered by assumptions of value-neutral architecture and urban planning and decades of risk-shifting. Sustainability is addressed as a technical environmental problem without involving affected communities or an anti-racist lens. Land use and the regulation of materials supply chains have not only been limited in their ability to confront forced labor but are also shaped by slavery and its legacies.

For this class, U-M and Yale University will partner across disciplines and across Universities to confront this problem, and through an equity-based process, we will abandon the practice model separating designers from the politics, ethics, and mechanics of construction to create a framework for a proposed National Slavery Memorial in Washington, DC. Students from Law, Architecture, History, Policy, Business, and other disciplines will learn project leadership and management skills, they will interview a range of experts, and they will develop an understanding of historical research methods and analysis, supply chain management, and project presentation skills as they develop a framework for the Monument.