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Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington

Ellen Weiss

NewSouth Books
$45.00 hardcover
9½ x 10  
400 pages
50 black-and-white photographs
Henry Lewis Gates Jr, foreword
November 2011

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee interweaves the life of the first academically trained African American architect with his life’s work—the campus of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. In this richly illustrated architectural history, the author shows how a black youth born in North Carolina shortly after the Civil War earned a professional architecture degree at MIT and how he then used his design and administrative skills to further Booker T. Washington’s agenda of community solidarity and—in defiance of the then-expanding Jim Crow policies—the public expression of racial pride and progress. The book also considers such issues as architectural education for African Americans at the turn of the 20th century, the white donors who funded Tuskegee’s buildings, other Tuskegee architects, and Taylor’s buildings elsewhere. Individual narratives of Taylor’s Tuskegee buildings conclude the volume.

Architecture projects by Robert R. Taylor:

  • Huntington Hall
  • Milbank Agricultural Building
  • Emery Dormitories (4 buildings)
  • Tompkins Hall (dining facility)
  • Dorothy Hall
  • White Hall (women's dormitory)
  • Women's Trade's Buildings
  • John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital
  • Carnegie Library
  • Laundry, now The George Washington Carver Museum
  • Administration Building
  • James Hall
  • Rockefeller Hall
  • Sage Hall
  • Men's residence Hall
  • Wilcox Trade Buildings
  • Douglass Hall
  • Logan Hall (old gym)
  • Collis P. Huntington Memorial Building (academic building)
  • Armstrong Science Building
  • Tantum Hall
  • Hollis Burke Frissell Library


"Ellen Weiss breaks important new ground in her remarkable monograph on Robert R. Taylor. This volume is by far the most detailed account we have of an African American architect. Weiss vividly conveys the immense challenges faced by black architects and professionals of every kind, especially during the rise of Jim Crow and how Taylor's perseverance overcame odds that must often have seemed insurmountable at times. Along the way we get myriad insights on architectural education, architect-client relationships, and the development of a major institution of higher learning. Let us hope that this pioneering study inspires other scholars to pursue a realm of architectural and cultural history that has been, until now, sorely neglected." —Richard Longstreth, George Washington University
"Architectural historian Ellen Weiss has painstakingly developed a long-overdue and well-documented historical account of Robert R. Taylor, a true American architectural pioneer. She skillfully traces his leadership in the design and evolution of Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute. Her book provides a wealth of little-known factual information about Taylor and a scholarly historical analysis of his many contributions in architectural education and professional practice. This is a must read for anyone with an interest in architecture and a certain reference for every architecture student." —Richard K. Dozier, D.Arch, AIA, Dean, Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture & Construction Science
"Ellen Weiss's elegantly written book is a lucid study of Robert R. Taylor's work for the educator Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute from 1892 to 1932. Coupled with Washington's aesthetic activism, Taylor's architectural vision created an identity for the Tuskegee campus that appeared to transcend the oppression of the Jim Crow era and transform a modest normal school into an expression of Washington's profound belief in a future of racial parity. Weiss deftly interweaves the story of the Tuskegee campus with an examination of Taylor's pedagogy and the plight of black architects in the early twentieth century." —Gary Van Zante, Curator of Architecture and Design, Massachusetts Institute of Technology