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Roberta Washington

the second African American female licensed architect, worked in both architecture and structural engineering firms in Chicago, before relocating to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where her career spanned another thirty-nine years.

Brown was born in Topeka, Kansas as the middle of five children of Carl Collins and Georgia Louise Watkins Harris. Her father was a shipping clerk in a downtown department store. Her mother, a former schoolteacher, was an accomplished classical pianist. The children attended an integrated elementary school and Seaman High School. As a child Brown loved sketching and the opportunity to work with her older brother Bryant on machinery on their semi-rural farm. One day Bryant, who had met some architecture students at Kansas State University where he studied electrical engineering, sat at the kitchen table talking with Brown about architecture as they looked up the word “architect” in the dictionary.

From 1936 to 1938 Brown attended ...

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Marilyn L. Geary

television journalist, was born Belvagene Davis in Monroe, Louisiana, to Florence Howard Mays and John Melton, a lumber worker. She grew up in Berkeley and Oakland, California, with her mother's family. As a child, Belva lived in housing projects, all eleven family members cramped into two small rooms. In 1951 she graduated from Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California. Although her grades were exceptional and she was accepted into San Francisco State University, she could not afford the tuition. Instead she began work in a clerical position with Oakland's Naval Supply Center.

In 1950 she married her boyfriend and next-door neighbor, Frank Davis Jr. and they moved to Washington, D.C., where Frank was stationed in the air force. Belva Davis took a job with the Office of Wage Stabilization. The couple's first child, Steven, was born in 1953 Frank s next station was Hawaii but after two ...

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LaVerne Gyant

actress, activist, and elocutionist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Mansfield Vinton Davis, a musician, and Mary Ann (Johnson) Davis. Davis's talents as an actress and elocutionist were apparently inherited from her father, while her inclination toward activism came from her stepfather, George A. Hackett, who was a recognized leader within the African American community in Baltimore. Both Mansfield Davis and George Hackett died while she was still young After her stepfather s death Davis and her mother moved to Washington D C where she had the advantage of attending the best schools and with her fondness for books made rapid progress in her studies At the age of fifteen she passed the necessary exams to become a teacher and began teaching in the Maryland school district During this time she was recruited by the Louisiana State Board of Education who tendered her ...

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JoAnna Wool

dancer and vaudevillian was born in Covington, Kentucky, in 1872. According to her husband, Charles E. Johnson, Dean was born Dora Babbige, and her brother, Clarence Babbige, served as a judge in Kentucky during the Reconstruction period. By the mid-1880s her family moved to Indiana, and Dean found employment as a nursemaid in nearby Ohio.

Dean entered show business as a “statue girl” in The Creole Show, a popular touring production staged by Sam T. Jack. Dean possessed a striking figure, a pleasing smile, and a quality of warmth and personal charm that she was able to project from the stage; billed as “The Black Venus,” she struck dramatic poses during musical numbers and made a hit with the audience. Paired with talented soft-shoe dancer Charles E. Johnson Dean also became known for her performance of the cakewalk a dance developed by blacks ...

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Rhonda D. Jones

civil rights activist, philanthropist, and expert in child education, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Dan and Robert Fairfax and Inez Wood Fairfax.

Fairfax inherited a strong belief in the importance of education from her parents, who both earned their college degrees at the turn of the century. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1941, and completed her master's degree in Comparative Religion at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University in 1944. Fairfax later attended Harvard University as a Radcliffe visiting scholar, from 1984 to 1986.

Her professional career in education began as dean of women at Kentucky State College from 1942 to 1944, and at Tuskegee Institute from 1944 to 1946 In addition to education her parents who were members of the Congregational Church instilled in her a strong set of core values that interwove faith ...

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Theresa A. Hammond

certified public accountant (CPA), was born Bernadine Alberta Coles in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Bernard Albert Coles, a dentist, and the former Ruth Wyatt, a teacher. Bernadine and her younger sister enjoyed playing “office” so much that she once asked Santa Claus to bring her paper clips for Christmas. Later her grandfather gave the girls a portable typewriter, further encouraging their interest. Bernadine was the oldest of three daughters (the second of whom, Ruth Coles Harris, became the first African American female CPA in Virginia in 1963 and her father encouraged her to follow in his footsteps and become a dentist But she wasn t interested partly because she did not know any female dentists She also considered becoming a teacher like her mother but believed she lacked the patience required for that field As valedictorian of her class at Jefferson High School in Charlottesville she was awarded ...

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Sylvia M. DeSantis

librarian and educator, was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Gleason earned an AB degree from Fisk University in 1926 and a bachelor of science in 1931 from the University of Chicago Library School. Gleason began her library employment that same year as an assistant librarian at the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes in Kentucky. In 1932 Gleason became head librarian and taught library classes in the new library department she had created. The department, in conjunction with the Louisville Western Colored Branch Library, offered the only available library classes for African Americans in Kentucky between 1932 and 1951. In 1936 Gleason left Kentucky, earned a master's of arts degree in Library Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and taught at Fisk University in Tennessee as an assistant professor through 1937.

Gleason's impressive academic career reached a zenith in 1940 when she became the first African ...

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Roberta Washington

the first African American woman licensed as an architect in the United States, was born in Chicago, the only child of James A. Greene, a lawyer, and Vera Greene, a homemaker.

Greene received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1936 and a Master of Science degree in City Planning and Housing in 1937 from the same school. After graduation she was hired by Kenneth Roderick O'Neal, the first black architect to open an office in downtown Chicago (he later hired the nation's second licensed black female architect, Louise Harris Brown). In December 1942 Greene became the first officially licensed black female architect in the state of Illinois and in the nation After working in O Neal s office Greene applied for and was eventually hired for a position at the Chicago Housing Authority This was something of a ...

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Lawana Holland-Moore

artist, was born in Los Angeles, California, the younger of two daughters of Lovie Honeywood; information about her father is unavailable. Her regular visits to relatives in rural Progress, Mississippi, and Louisiana would provide a foundation for her artwork, as would the teachers and her close-knit family who encouraged her artistic talent. Her sense of identity was honed in her youth as her family experienced prejudice upon their move into a mixed Los Angeles neighborhood. In the 1960s, she became active in civil rights protest demonstrations and rallies.

Originally aspiring to become a history teacher, Honeywood was a history major at Spelman College before switching to art. Her years at Spelman were influential to her development as a painter. Spelman's all-female atmosphere was nurturing and had a long-standing reputation for producing African American scholars and artists. While there she networked with artist-professors such as Kofi Bailey and Samella ...

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Y. Jamal Ali

trained architect, urban designer, artist, author, musician, and educator, was born Renee Ersell Kemp in Washington, D.C., the only daughter of Reverend Arthur E. Kemp and Ruby E. Dunham. After her parents divorced, she was raised by her mother and her maternal grandparents, who encouraged her early artistic talents through childhood study of piano, violin, and cello. Ruby E. Dunham later married Mohammed Id, a Lebanese neurosurgeon, whose influence provided Reneé with a broad international perspective.

Graduating Theodore Roosevelt High School, Washington, D.C., in 1970, Kemp-Rotan studied architecture at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. The recipient of an American Institute of Architects (AIA)/Ford Foundation Minority Scholarship, she became the first black female to earn a degree in architecture at Syracuse, graduating cum laude in 1975. Syracuse exposed her to European design masters, and immersed her in the German Bauhaus ...

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Angela Black

architect and educator, was born in Harlem, New York, the only child of Walter Merrick, a doctor, and Amy (Merrick) Willoughby of the West Indies. Sklarek was a precocious child who demonstrated a keen interest in science and math. She also had a natural talent for fine art, which she expressed through sketches, murals, and painted furniture. Her parents recognized her talents at an early age and encouraged her participation in activities that would develop her natural skills. Sklarek often spent time with her father fishing, house painting, and doing carpentry work—unconventional activities for most girls in the 1930s.

After she received her primary education at a Catholic elementary school Sklarek transferred to the New York Public school system from which she graduated A high math test score earned her admission to the prestigious Hunter High School an all girls magnet school in Brooklyn Sklarek s excelled in ...