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The first African-American architect

The first African-American architect to graduate from MIT and the country’s first academically trained black architect, Robert R. Taylor was truly groundbreaking. Born in North Carolina in 1868, he learned carpentry and construction from his father, a former slave, and worked as a construction foreman before enrolling in MIT. After graduating in 1892, he was recruited by Booker T. Washington to work at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, where he spent nearly four decades. There, he was an influential educator, developing the architecture and construction trade program and inspiring countless students. He also designed and built a number of the campus’ structures, including libraries, residence halls, administration buildings, academic centers, and a dining facility.
In 1899, Taylor designed The Oaks, Booker T. Washington’s home and the Tuskegee Institute’s social center, which offered employment services and on-the-job training for students. He considered the Tuskegee Chapel, a brick and stone worship space that burned down in 1957, his masterpiece. Many of his buildings still stand today.

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