2015 49¢ Robert Robinson Taylor
US #4958 – Taylor was the 38th honoree in the Black Heritage Series.

Robert Robinson Taylor was born on June 8, 1868, in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was the first African American student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the first fully accredited African American architect in the US.

2015 49¢ Imperforate Robert Robinson Taylor
US #4958a – Imperforate Taylor Stamp

The son of emancipated slaves, Taylor left home in 1888 to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was the first African American student enrolled at the school. While there, he met Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute. Washington focused on education to fight discrimination in the post-Civil War South. He was impressed with Taylor, and while he was still a student, Washington approached Taylor about developing the institute’s industrial program and designing buildings for the campus. When he graduated in 1892, Taylor became the first fully accredited African American architect in America.

1940 10¢ Booker T. Washington
US #873 – Taylor worked with Washington to design new buildings for the Tuskegee Institute campus.

Taylor joined the staff at Tuskegee in late 1892. As the drafting instructor and architect to the Tuskegee Institute, Taylor was dedicated to promoting Washington’s self-help philosophy. His architectural debut, Science Hall, was constructed entirely by the students, right down to the bricks. But Taylor’s second project, the Tuskegee Chapel, was his proudest accomplishment. Washington once referred to it as the most imposing building on campus. Taylor’s designs and structures were said to epitomize the institute’s standards of excellence. Taylor spent the majority of his career at Tuskegee. He became a model of achievement through his many contributions – a symbol of pride for the Tuskegee Institute and the nation.

Between 1899 and 1902, Taylor returned to Cleveland, Ohio to join Charles W. Hopkinson’s architectural firm. In 1920, he founded one of the first Black-owned architecture firms with Louis H. Persely. Taylor designed several buildings outside of Tuskegee, including the Carnegie libraries at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, and Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. He also designed several buildings on the Selma University campus in Selma, Alabama, as well as the Colored Masonic Temple in Birmingham, Alabama.

2015 49¢ Robert Robinson Taylor Fleetwood First Day Cover with Color First Day Cancel
US #4958 – Fleetwood First Day Cover with Color First Day Cancel

In 1929, Taylor traveled to Kakata, Liberia, to plan the construction of the Booker Washington Institute, dubbed “the Tuskegee of Africa.” He was also tasked with developing the school’s industrial training program. Additionally, President Herbert Hoover appointed him to the Mississippi Valley Flood Relief Commission and he served as chairman of the American Red Cross’s Tuskegee chapter.

2015 49¢ Robert Robinson Taylor Colorano Silk Cachet Combination First Day Cover
US #4958 – Colorano Silk Cachet Combination First Day Cover

Taylor retired from Tuskegee in 1935 and returned to Wilmington, North Carolina. There, the governor placed him on the board of trustees for Fayetteville State University. By 1942, his health declined and he died on December 13, 1942, at a church service at his beloved Tuskegee Chapel. Tuskegee named its school of architecture and construction science after Taylor.

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  1. Thank you for an interesting and informative article from the Black Heritage Series. Articles like this and the stamps are valuable education.

  2. Thank you Mystic for this wonderful article on Robert Taylor. His “ firsts” are truly remarkable and a tribute to the place of education in lives of his emancipated parents

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