Gregory Delaney, “Architecture and the Buffalo Renaissance: Building Momentum”


If you’ve spent time in Buffalo or you’re an architecture buff, you are familiar with Buffalo’s gorgeous architecture. From the old beautiful mansions on Delaware to the majestic churches, the Art Deco influence seen in City Hall and the mid-century modern homes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Buffalo buildings represents the very best of American architecture over the late 19th and 20th centuries. If you want a firsthand experience of American architecture, Buffalo is the place to find it. (Indeed, there are many Buffalo tours that do focus on architecture, including ones offered by Preservation Buffalo Niagara.)

Unsurprisingly, then, would Buffalo Humanities Festival include Gregory Delaney’s timely discussion of architecture and the Buffalo renaissance. Professor Delaney will speak to how architecture in Buffalo’s renaissance will set the tone for the city’s future and how it will understand the past.

In 2008, Nicolai Ouroussoff in The New York Times Art and Design section described Buffalo’s architectural history and its contemporary preservation movement:

The architects who worked here were among the first to break with European traditions to create an aesthetic of their own, rooted in American ideals about individualism, commerce and social mobility. And today its grass-roots preservation movement is driven not by Disney-inspired developers but by a vibrant coalition of part-time preservationists, amateur historians and third-generation residents who have made reclaiming the city’s history a deeply personal mission.

This tradition, this architectural history, is truly a big part of Buffalo’s identity. Even now, Buffalo continues to attract architects wanting to work with the city’s historic landscapes, which Ouroussoff mentions in his article. Modern architects include the New York-based Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, responsible for the “sleek new zinc-and cast-stone-clad home for the Burchfield-Penney Art Center,” where Professor Delaney’s talk will take place.

Are you an architecture junkie? Then don’t miss Gregory Delaney’s BHF talk, “Architecture and the Buffalo Renaissance: Building Momentum,” from 2:30-3:30pm on Saturday 9/24 in the Burchfield-Penney Auditorium.

Gregory Delaney is Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at UB. He is a graduate of the Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University, where he also taught courses in architecture and landscape architecture. His teaching emphasizes the history of architecture as a vehicle for contemporary design.


Jane Fisher on “Black Soldiers and the Harlem Renaissance”




Jane Fisher, Associate Professor of English at Canisius, asks: “How did World War I African American soldiers emerge from a racist society to become transformative figures in Harlem Renaissance literature?” By looking at Claude McKay’s writing, Professor Fisher will examine how WWI African American soldiers overcame stereotyping and discrimination to offer a new model of African American manhood based on merit and equality, two characteristics that were central to the U.S. claim that their involvement in WWI would “Make The World Safe For Democracy.”

World War I also overlapped with the Great Migration, 1914-1920, which saw around half-a-million black southerners move from the rural south to northern cities such as Detroit, New York, Cleveland, and Chicago. Motivated by a lack of economic possibility rooted in racist social and political policies, black southerners hoped to capitalize on industrial labor opportunities in the North, which were increasing due to wartime production.

Despite the continued hold of segregationist and racist policies throughout the U.S. in the early 1900s (for example, the wide reach of Jim Crow laws in the south and Woodrow Wilson’s segregation of federal offices), about 200,000 African American soldiers fought in World War I with the U.S. American Expeditionary Force and the French Army.

The United States entered World War I late, in 1917, after several years of proclaiming isolationism. Black soldiers’ experiences of segregation and racism at home and in the U.S. military deeply contrasted with the U.S. domestic war propaganda, which claimed the U.S. was entering the war protect democracy.

The majority of these soldiers served as service, but roughly 40,000 saw combat on the front lines serving in segregated units. The 93rd Division, which included the famous “Harlem Hellfighters” (the 369th Infantry Regiment), fought with the French Army, which black soldiers found more welcoming than their own white countrymen. The Harlem Hellfighters “spent more than six months on the front lines—longer than any other American unit—and never surrendered an inch of Allied territory nor lost a single soldier through capture.” [Click to view a photo essay of African Americans soldiers in WWI, from the Oxford African American Studies Center.]

Both military and civilian France’s acceptance of American black soldiers offered an alternative to the entrenched racism and violence that African Americans experienced back home. This acceptance would cast France in a positive light for many African Americans. Some African American GIs would elect to stay in France after the war. In the years after the war, many black intellectuals, artists, and musicians from the U.S. and Caribbean (such as the French colonies) would head to Paris, which became a thriving center for an emerging black internationalism. Major figures of the Harlem Renaissance spent time or visited Paris, cultivating an intellectual and artistic exchange between Harlem, Paris, and the Caribbean that played no small role in placing Harlem as a cultural center on not just a national, but an international scale.

We hope you’ll join us at Professor Fisher’s talk, “Black Soldiers and the Harlem Renaissance,” from 1:00pm-2:00pm in Rockwell, 302.

Jane Fisher is Associate Professor in the English Department of Canisius College where she teaches twentieth-century literature and medical humanities. Questions engaging gender, war, and race motivate her teaching and research.  Her book, Envisioning Disease, Gender and War: Women’s Narratives of The 1918-19 Influenza Pandemic, was published by Palgrave/Macmillan in 2012.

Additional Sources:

West Side Sisters

rosaryThe Sisters of St. Mary of Namur have lived and served in the West Side of Buffalo since 1887.  Many of the current sisters joined as teenagers and have lived their whole lives as part of this religious community.  As nuns, their lives have been defined by their gender and yet they have had chances to stretch beyond their generation’s gender roles.  Jonathan David Lawrence’s presentation, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 26th from 1—2pm in Ketchum Hall, will include video clips from interviews with the sisters and commentary on changes in their ministry, their neighborhood, and our wider society. Sister Patricia Brady, SSMN, will join us for a discussion after the film.

On their website, the Sisters explain their origins in 19th century Belgium and how they came to live and work in Western New York:

“From the origins of our congregation in Belgium, a missionary call sounded in the hearts of the members. This led Mother Claire to send the early sisters from Belgium to forge new beginnings in immigrant communities of America in 1863. Our first ministries brought us to Lockport, NY, north of Buffalo where teaching became our primary work. Five sisters arrived from Belgium to establish Catholic schools within the flourishing immigrant community of Lockport.”

In the 20th century, the mission of the Sisters focused largely on poverty and social justice issues in the city of Buffalo and beyond. They now have ministries in several southern states, and have expanded to Africa, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

Lawrence’s lecture promises to provide a window into a way of life that most of us are completely unfamiliar with and show how these women are working to serve their community. Prof. Lawrence has been a faculty member in the Religious Studies and Theology Department at Canisius College since 2005.  He is interim pastor of a United Church of Christ Congregation and recently served as president of Buffalo’s Network of Religious Communities.  He conducts ethnographic research on Buffalo’s diverse religious communities and is developing a web archive on the topic.