Historical Highlight: Celebrating Black Architects

Photo Credit: Veranda (UCLA Libraries Special Collections/Courtesy of PBS SoCal)

This Black History Month, we are honoring and celebrating the groundbreaking contributions of Black architects who have shaped our built environment and paved the way for future generations. Among these incredible stories are Robert Robinson Taylor, known as the first Black architect in America, and the firm McKissack & McKissack, the first Black-owned architectural firm in the United States. [SOURCE]. Their work not only reflects immense talent and vision but also resilience in the face of social challenges.

Robert Robinson Taylor

Robert Robinson Taylor (1868-1942) holds the title of being the first Black student to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is widely recognized as the first accredited Black architect in America. Graduating with a degree in architecture in 1892, Taylor’s career was marked by a dedication to excellence and a commitment to improving the lives of others through education and architectural innovation. 

Taylor’s most notable work can be seen at Tuskegee University in Alabama, where he served as both an educator and the chief architect. Under the guidance of Booker T. Washington, Taylor designed many of the campus buildings, using his skills to create spaces that were not only functional but beautiful. His work at Tuskegee and beyond demonstrates his belief in architecture as a tool for social change, paving the way for future generations of Black architects. [SOURCE]

McKissack & McKissack

McKissack & McKissack, recognized as the first African-American-owned architectural firm in the United States, carries a legacy that spans over a century. Founded in 1905 by brothers Moses McKissack, III and Calvin Lunsford McKissack in Nashville, Tennessee, the firm has played a crucial role in shaping the architectural landscape of America, overcoming racial barriers to create a lasting impact on the nation’s infrastructure. 

The firm’s portfolio boasts a wide range of projects, from educational institutions, hospitals, and libraries to significant public works and monuments. Notable projects include the design and construction of the Tuskegee Airman’s training facility and contributions to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The firm’s enduring success and resilience have made it a beacon of inspiration and a pillar in the architectural community, embodying the strength and creativity of Black architects. [SOURCE]

The stories of Robert Robinson Taylor and McKissack & McKissack show only a glimpse of the contributions Black architects have made to our society. Their work represents a legacy of overcoming racism, fostering community, and creating spaces that reflect the rich diversity and potential of the human spirit. As we celebrate Black History Month, COR3 is proud to honor these and other Black architects who have played a role in the profession of architecture. 

We are committed to celebrating diversity and promoting equality in the architectural profession, inspired by the pioneering spirit of figures like Robert Robinson Taylor, and McKissack & McKissack. Their stories are a testament to the powerful role architecture can play in building a better future for all. 

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