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Dreck Spurlock Wilson

architect, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eighth of eleven children of Charles Sylvester Abele and Mary Jones, a washerwoman and milliner. Charles Able changed the spelling, although not the pronunciation, of his surname to Abele after mustering out of the Union army following the end of the Civil War. Charles, who worked as a carpenter and laborer at the U.S. Treasury Customs House, a sought-after patronage job, and as a porter, died when Julian was twelve. Mary Jones Able was a descendant of Absalom Jones, the first African American Protestant Episcopal priest. Julian and his siblings were fourth generation Philadelphians and were expected by their parents to achieve recognition, marry well, and assume their rightful place in Olde Philadelphia society. Julian's oldest brother, Robert, was one of the first African American graduates of Hahnemann Medical College and a cofounder in 1907 of Mercy Hospital the only ...

Article

architect and civic leader, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of the Reverend Cleo W. Blackburn, executive director of Flanner House, a social service center for Indianapolis's black community, president of Jarvis Christian College, and executive director and CEO of the Board of Fundamental Education (BFE), which received a national charter in 1954. Cleo Blackburn was born in Port Gibson, Mississippi, the son of a slave. At Butler University he–earned a degree in social work and was ordained a–minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). After earning a master's degree in Sociology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, Cleo Blackburn was director of research and records at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. He returned to Indianapolis in 1936. In 2000 he was recognized posthumously as one of the fifty most influential people of the twentieth century in Indianapolis. Walter Blackburn's mother, Fannie Scott Blackburn a civic ...

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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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Todd Palmer

architect, planner and developer, was born in Towson, Maryland, and grew up in Baltimore, the third child of Albert Truman and Charlotte Cassell. His father drove a coal truck and played trumpet for the Salvation Army Band; his mother brought in extra income doing washing. As a 14-year-old, Cassell expressed an ambition to build at Douglass High, a segregated public vocational school. While studying carpentry he enrolled in a drafting course with Ralph Victor Cook. Cook became a mentor to Cassell and encouraged him to pursue a college education in architecture at Cornell University, where Cook had been an early African American graduate of engineering.

Cassell entered Cornell in 1915, but two years into the program, World War I interrupted his studies. Cassell enlisted in the U.S. Army. In 1919 he returned to the United States from France with an honorable discharge Because Cornell ...

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Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston

Albert Cassell was born in Towson, near Baltimore, Maryland, the third child of Albert Truman and Charlotte Cassell. He finished his elementary and high school education in Baltimore and in 1919 received a B.A. degree in architecture from Cornell University, where he sang in churches to help pay his expenses. His studies were interrupted by service as a second lieutenant, training officers in heavy field artillery in the United States and France during World War I (1914–1918).

Article

De Witt S. Dykes

minister and registered architect, was born in Gadsden, Alabama, the second male and the fifth of six children born to Mary Anna Wade, a homemaker, and the Reverend Henry Sanford Roland Dykes, a lay minister in the Methodist Church (later the United Methodist Church), a brick mason, and construction contractor.

In the early 1900s the family moved to Newport, Tennessee, which was a racially segregated small town with a semirural atmosphere. Henry Dykes served as a circuit riding minister, conducting services on alternate Sundays at Methodist churches in three communities, including one at Newport, but earned enough to support his family as the head of a construction firm on weekdays until his death in 1945 Henry Dykes taught brick masonry and construction skills to not only his sons but also others By age fourteen Dykes had become a master mason by age seventeen he was a ...

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Robin Brabham

architect, politician, and community leader, was born Harvey Bernard Gantt in Charleston, South Carolina, the first of five children of Wilhelmenia Gordon and Christopher C. Gantt. His father was a skilled mechanic at the Charleston Naval Shipyard and an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and he encouraged his son to speak out against the segregated society in which they lived. Gantt graduated in 1960 from Burke High School, where he was salutatorian of his class and captain of the football team. Only a month before graduation, he helped twenty-two other student leaders from the all-black school stage a sit-in demonstration at the S. H. Kress lunch counter. In Gantt's later assessment, the action “started a change in the minds of the whole [city]” and “ultimately ended up in a movement that spread throughout all of Charleston” (Haessly, 47).

Gantt ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Norman Weinstein

landscape architect and educator, was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where his father was a career army serviceman, and grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1981 he earned his BS degree in Landscape Architecture at North Carolina A&T State University, where he came under the mentorship of Charles Fountain. Fountain impressed upon Hood the need to judiciously balance a love of art with a strong sense of social responsibility and emphasized that, as a minority landscape architect, he should seek novel ways to improve environmental conditions for marginalized populations. Hood's attraction to graduate study at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned master's degrees in Architecture and Landscape Architecture in 1989, was a logical consequence of Fountain's influence. Garrett Eckbo was also a major source of inspiration for Hood and also emphasized the social responsibility of landscape architects Although Eckbo had retired from ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Roberta Washington

architect, builder, businessman, and teacher, was born to Phillip Anderson Lankford and Nancy Ella Johnson Lankford, farmers in Potosi, Missouri. He attended public schools in Potosi and worked as a young apprentice to a German mechanic for four years. From 1889 to 1895 Lankford attended Lincoln Institute (Lincoln University) in Jefferson City, Missouri, where he studied mechanical engineering and blacksmithing. He worked at several jobs to cover school costs, including at a blacksmith shop in St. Louis where he became part owner.

From 1895 to 1896 Lankford studied at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, graduating with a certificate in steam fitting while also taking courses in chemistry and physics and working. It may have been while Lankford was at Tuskegee that he became aware of the possibility of architecture as a profession for African Americans. During 1897 Lankford and his younger brother Arthur Edward Lankford ...

Article

Fredo Rivera

was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 26 March 1917 to an elite family. He was introduced to Haitian culture and history by his parents, Elisabeth Fernande Auguste and Edmond Mangonès, the latter a Haitian public servant, collector, and historian. Mangonès traveled to Belgium to attend the Académie Royale de Beaux Arts de Bruxelles and graduated from Cornell University in New York in 1942 with a degree in architecture, receiving the prestigious Sand Goldwin Medal. Afterward Mangònes returned to Haiti to begin a prolific career in architecture, while also becoming involved in Haiti’s fledging art scene through his close association with the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince.

Mangonès was the architect of various prominent buildings in mid-twentieth-century Port-au-Prince, including the Théâtre de Verdure (1946), the Cité Militaire (1956–1957), and the Régle du Tabac (1958 Inspired by modernist trends from abroad his geometric architecture would adapt to ...

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Boyd Childress

architect and educator, was born in Cumberland County, Virginia, to Julia Trent and William Henry Moses Sr., a Baptist minister who moved the family of six children several times, living in Virginia; Washington, DC; South Carolina,; Tennessee; Texas; New York City; and finally Philadelphia. Moses Jr. attended public school in Philadelphia and graduated from Central High School in 1922, showing an inclination for drawing. After two years at Penn State, Moses withdrew when the family could not afford the costs. For the next seven years he worked in a variety of jobs in architecture, first for the noted African American architect Vertner Woodson Tandy and later as a draftsman for Louis E. Jallade.

In 1931 Moses returned to Penn State and graduated in 1933 with a bachelors of science in Architecture He worked briefly for the Public Works Administration in New York before joining the ...

Article

Susan G. Pearl

architect, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the son of Sarah Pittman, a laundress. The identity of his father is unknown. Raised by his widowed mother and educated in the black public schools of Montgomery, William enrolled in 1892 at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama, completing his studies in mechanical and architectural drawing in 1897. With financial support from Tuskegee's principal, Booker T. Washington, Pittman continued his education at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, earning a diploma in architectural drawing in 1900. Returning to Tuskegee as an instructor, he assisted in the planning and measured drawing of several of the buildings on the campus.

In May 1905, dissatisfied with his faculty status and unable to get along with his supervisor, Pittman left Tuskegee for Washington, D.C., and began work as a draftsman in the office of architect John A. Lankford Within a ...

Article

Dália Leonardo

golf-course designer and owner, was born William James Powell to Berry and Massaleaner Powell in Greenville, Alabama. He was one of six children. When Powell was still a child, his family relocated to Minerva, Ohio, where his father found employment in a pottery factory. When he was only nine years old, Powell began playing golf and serving as a caddy at the Edgewater Golf Course. He attended Minerva High School, where he was captain of both the golf and football teams. After graduating from Wilberforce University, where he and his brother Berry founded the school's golf team, he began working as a janitor for the Timken Company in Canton, Ohio, and was subsequently promoted to security guard. On 22 November 1940, he married Marcella Olivier, who later passed away in 1996. The couple had five children: two sons, William and Lawrence and three daughters Mary Alice Rose Marie ...

Article

Angela R. Sidman

architect, was born in Washington, D.C., to parents whose names and professions are unknown. As a child, he spent time with his grandfather, a bootblack who worked near the U.S. capitol building. Robinson would listen to the congressmen exchange banter while they had their shoes shined. In 1916 Robinson graduated from the M Street High School and began studying at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Design in Philadelphia. One year later, as the United States was entering World War I, Robinson left school to enlist in the U.S. Army Field Artillery Corps, 167th Brigade. He served in France and was in Paris for the Armistice in 1918. The city's grand buildings and expert urban planning made such an impression on Robinson that he decided to pursue the study of architecture upon his return to the United States.

In 1919 Robinson returned to Philadelphia and entered ...

Article

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 ...

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Ellen Weiss

the first academically trained African American architect and the first black graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to Emily Still and Henry Taylor a literate slave who given virtual freedom by his white father and master prospered independently as a merchant carpenter and coastal trader Little is known about Emily Still other than that she was described as a mulatto and was ten years younger than her husband Presaging the future career of his son Henry Taylor also constructed a number of businesses and homes in Wilmington Robert R Taylor studied at Wilmington s Gregory Institute an American Missionary Association school where he was taught by white New Englanders who were ambitious for their charges Though it is possible that the Gregory Institute s teachers pointed Taylor to MIT the impetus might have come from other Wilmingtonians A wealthy white boy ...

Article

Timothy M. Broughton

grassroots organizer, architect, and minister, was born Jasper Jacob Thomas in Mobile County, Alabama, the youngest of three boys. Little is known about Thomas's mother; his father, whose name is not known, was a successful construction worker, a trade that quickly became one of Thomas's passions. Thomas married Mary Whisper in the early 1900s, and they had seven daughters. Thomas also had a son prior to this marriage, but there is no information about the details of this union.

Thomas traveled widely, visiting England and France. In Africa he learned about different architectural styles and cultural, social, and political organization. He admired and corresponded with Marcus Garvey, and in Mobile he publicly organized and supported black pride and self-sufficiency projects.

In 1948 Thomas was instrumental in both organizing and directing the strategy for defeating the Boswell Amendment the most racially discriminatory voting law passed in ...

Article

Andrés Pletch

was born in 1881 to free black parents in Havana, Cuba. As a child, he witnessed the abolition of slavery in 1886. During his adolescence, Cuban insurgents led by José Martí, Antonio Maceo, and Máximo Gómez initiated Cuba’s anticolonial War of Independence (1895–1898). By the time Urrutia married in 1899, Cubans had won their independence from Spain, only to be occupied by the United States. Urrutia’s son was born in 1902, the same year Cuba became an independent nation.

Urrutia’s professional life unfolded during the tumultuous decades of Cuba’s republican period (1902–1959). After graduating from business school, Urrutia worked as an accountant for a Havana firm and managed his own tobacco-exporting business. From 1907 he worked as a sales representative for a number of department stores. Urrutia then worked for the National Lottery. In 1913 at the age of 32 Urrutia returned ...