Robert R. Taylor with classmates, 1892

Robert R. Taylor with classmates
Courtesy MIT Museum

Robert R. Taylor (back row, third from right) with fellow classmates, 1892

Robert Robinson Taylor (June 8, 1868 – December 13, 1942) was the first known black student to attend and graduate from MIT. He enrolled in 1888 and graduated with the Class of 1892, the largest on record since the Institute's founding--328 registered for the fall semester of 1888.

Having worked in his father's business for a period, Taylor entered MIT a couple of years older than the average freshman coming straight out of high school. Also, he was one of a mere handful of students from the South; most MIT students at the time were New Englanders, with a smattering from other parts of the country and from overseas.

When it was known that I was to leave my home to study at the [MIT], many of the home people asked, 'What is the use?' And a question of similar nature was asked by many in other places. "After graduation, what? Where is the field?"

Robert R. Taylor, "The Scientific Development of the Negro," 50th Anniversary of the Charter of MIT, 10 April 1911

Taylor is considered to be the first accredited, academically trained African-American architect. He was recruited to teach at Tuskegee Institute (today, Tuskegee University) by Booker T. Washington, who looked to model its curriculum after MIT’s.

Taylor went on to a brilliant 40-year career as a professor and architect at Tuskegee Institute. He designed many of the buildings on the campus of Tuskegee University prior to 1932, and he served as second-in-command to its founder and first President, Booker T. Washington.

In 2010, Tuskegee University elevated its departments of architecture and construction science from the College of Engineering, Architecture and Physical Sciences (CEAPS) to the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science (TSACS).

Timeline: 1890s
School: School of Architecture and Planning
Department: Architecture
Career: Engineering
Object: Photograph
Collection: Booker T. Washington, Robert R. Taylor, Roots and Exponents 1875-1920, Students