Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee, 2011

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington, 2011

Author(s): Ellen Weiss
  • Type: Book
  • Researcher: Other Researchers
  • Timeline: 2010s
  • Affiliation: Alum

About the Book

Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee interweaves the life of the first academically trained African American architect [and MIT's first black graduate] 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 delves into such questions of how a black boy born in North Carolina shortly after the Civil War could earn 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 strengthening Jim Crow, 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 twentieth 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. Foreword by Henry Louis Gates


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

Weiss, Ellen. Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington. Montgomery, AL: NewSouth Books, 2011.