Lecture 3. A Towering Memorial: The Robert L. Vann Tower and the Belgian Friendship Building

Named for the editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, one of mid-century America’s leading African American newspapers, the Robert L. Vann Tower of the Belgian Friendship Building rises substantially higher than any of the Confederate statues on Richmond, Virginia’s nearly Monument Avenue ever did. Although prominent on the city’s skyline, the Belgian Friendship Building has been overlooked in histories of the importation of European modern architecture into the United States, and in particular, onto American campuses, in part because the architecture of historically Black colleges and universities has been too often overlooked, but also because of the problematic relationship of the building, which originally served as Belgium’s pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, to Belgian colonialism in the Congo.

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