On Wednesday, Wednesday, February 18, 2015 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm in the City Council Chambers at City Hall the United States Postal Service will unveil the Robert Robinson Taylor Black Heritage stamp. Mattie Little, President of the Mount Vernon Branch of the NAACP will participate in the program.
“As most people know, I am an architect by trade and this is such an honor especially for Black architects. Robert Taylor contributed to increasing the number of Blacks to architecture. His designs at Tuskegee University still stand today and inspire yet another generation through his vision and construction longevity,” said Mayor Ernest D. Davis.
Taylor, believed to have been both the first African-American graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the nation’s first academically trained black architect, is the Postal Service’s 38th honoree. His great granddaughter is White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.
The son of a former slave, Taylor was recruited by Booker T. Washington to the Tuskegee Institute to help show the world what an all-black institution could accomplish. Taylor designed and oversaw the construction of dozens of new buildings built in an elegant, dignified style that befitted his personality. But it was Tuskegee’s Chapel that Taylor considered to be his finest achievement and masterpiece. Washington referred to the graceful, round-arch structure as the ‘most imposing building’ at Tuskegee.
When Taylor arrived at Tuskegee in 1892, he was both a beginning architect and a busy teacher of architectural and mechanical drawing to students in all industrial trades, including building construction. Before the decade was over, he had established a beginning architecture curriculum that included carpentry, cost estimation, training in drawing building plans and the study of construction problems. Tuskegee soon began offering a certificate in architectural drawing, which would help graduates enter collegiate architecture programs or win entry-level positions in architectural offices. Taylor’s efforts furthered Washington’s dream of producing not just African-American builders and carpenters, but designers and architects who planned the buildings as well.
After retiring in 1932, Taylor returned to Wilmington, NC, and spent the final decade of his life engaged in quiet but determined public service and advocacy. He promoted a federal homesteading project for African-American farmers and argued in favor of federally funded African-American recreation projects. He was elected vice chairman of the Wilmington Inter-Racial Commission, served on the board of Fayetteville State Teacher’s College, and wrote to the U.S. Civil Service Commission in 1941 to protest discrimination against African Americans in the defense industry.
The Robert Robinson Taylor Black Heritage stamp will also be on sale.