SAHARA Highlights: African American Architects

by Jacqueline Spafford and Mark Hinchman, SAHARA Co-Editors | Aug 11, 2020

SAHARA has rich holdings of the work African American architects, much of it due to the effort of Dell Upton. Yet some gaps remain. There are number of prominent and prolific architects not yet in our collection, including Robert Robinson Taylor, Wendell Campbell, Beverly Loraine Greene, and John Warren Moutoussamy. Regarding coverage, strengths and weaknesses, what is true of SAHARA is representative of architecture history itself. The contribution of African American architects, and women architects, remains understudied, and is a promising area of future scholarship. Please add your contributions to enhance these under-developed areas of the SAHARA collection.

To see more SAHARA content:
To learn more about contributing, visit:

Carnegie Library at Fiske University

Moses McKissack. Carnegie Library at Fiske University, Nashville, Tennessee, 1908. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2012. After this library, Moses joined forces with his brother, Calvin McKissack, also an architect. Three other family members later worked for McKissack and McKissack, William DeBerry McKissack, Leatrice Buchanan McKissack and Cheryl McKissack Daniel.


Duke Mansion
Julian Abele and Horace Trumbauer. Duke Mansion, New York, 1909. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2000. African American architect Abele (1881–1950) worked for gilded age architect Trumbauer, and his contributions were neither hidden or publicized, but the extent of his work as principal designer only came to light in 1986.


East Campus Student Union
Julian Abele and Horace Trumbauer. East Campus Student Union, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, 1924–1927. Photograph by Richard Guy Wilson, 1990. Abele designed numerous buildings for Duke University, including the library, football stadium, gym, and medical school. 


Alabama Penny Savings Bank
Wallace Rayfield, Alabama Penny Savings Bank, Birmingham, Alabama, 1913. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2010. This is one of the few remaining remnants of Birmingham’s early-20th-century black business district.


Villa Lewaro
Vertner Tandy, Villa Lewaro, Irvington, New York, 1916–1918. This was the home of African American cosmetics magnate Mme C.J. Walker. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2016.


School of Architecture, William Wilcox Building, Tuskegee University
William Hazel, School of Architecture, William Wilcox Building, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama, 1919–1921. Photograph by Dell Upton.


Eddie Rochester Anderson House
Paul Williams, Eddie Rochester Anderson House, Los Angeles, California, 1937. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2011.


Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
J. Max Bond, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, Alabama, 1987. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2006. Bond, along with architect Phil Freelon, were the American architects who partnered with David Adjaye on the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.


Pacific Design Center
Norma Merrick Sklarek, with Gruen and Associates and Cesar Pelli, Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood, California, 1975. Photograph by Dell Upton, 2010. Sklarek worked at SOM, Gruen and Associates, and Welton Becket, but she is less well known than she should be. She worked not as design architect, but as project manager, and later as a director.


Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture
Phil Freelon, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture, Charlotte, North Carolina, 2009. Gantt, the benefactor of the museum, is himself a prominent architect and founding partner of Gantt Huberman, and also served as mayor of Charlotte. Photograph by Mark Hinchman, 2016.


Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610