Friday, February 13th, 2015 by

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington by Ellen WeissThe US Postal Service inducted Robert R. Taylor, the United States’ first academically trained African American Architect, into their Black Heritage Stamp series this past week. In a ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, Taylor’s great-grandaughter White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett dedicated the stamp with Postmaster General Megan Brennan.

As related in historian Ellen Weiss’s book Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee (NewSouth Books), Taylor received an architectural degree at MIT, and was then recruited by Booker T. Washington to teach and and help design the buildings of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee University). Taylor’s buildings were seen, in defiance of strengthening Jim Crow laws, as a public expression of racial pride and progress. Weiss’s lush hardcover book recounts Taylor’s life and accomplishments alongside over 100 photographs, including a full pictorial catalog of Taylor’s work at Tuskegee University.

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee received the Award of Excellence from the Southeastern Society of Architectural Historians.

The Norman Transcript (OK) (via the Architectural Record) spoke with Jarrett about the honor. “Anytime I face a daunting challenge and self-doubt creeps in, I think of my great grandfather, Robert Taylor, the son of a slave, who traveled from Wilmington, NC , to attend M.I.T . in 1882,” she said. “He believed that with a good education, hard work, relentless determination and a dedication to family, there were no limits to what he could accomplish. The example he set gives me strength and courage. My family is proud to stand on his shoulders and we know that it is our responsibility to embrace his values, to ensure that his legacy will be ‘forever stamped’ in the conscious of future generations.”

Robert R. Taylor 2015 Black Heritage Stamp

Read more from the Architectural Record.

Ellen Weiss’s Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Designs for Booker T. Washington is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.