Since 1940, the United States Postal Service has paid homage to the countless achievements made by African-American men and women through stamps that immortalize those individuals who had an impact on this country’s history.
Now Robert Robinson Taylor (pictured), the first academically trained black architect in the U.S. and, coincidentally, the great-grandfather of Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, will be honored on USPS’ 38th Black Heritage stamp to be issued February 12.
Taylor was born in Wilmington, N.C. 1868 to a middle class family. Taylor’s grandfather was a white slave owner, who freed his son, Henry Taylor, in 1847. Robert’s mother was descended from free blacks since before the Civil War. Upon graduating high school, Taylor worked for his father a bit but then attended the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where prejudice awaited him and the other handful of blacks who dared to attend.
During his four years at MIT, Taylor worked hard and managed to maintain an above average grade point average. He went on to graduate from MIT in 1892 becoming the first black person to receive a degree from the university.
Upon graduating MIT, Taylor married his wife, Nellie and landed a job at Tuskegee as an architect and educator through a close relationship he forged with Booker T. Washington. Taylor designed most of the university’s buildings built before 1932. He retired from his university posts in 1935.
Taylor collapsed and passed away in 1942 while attending a service at the Tuskegee chapel which he had designed.
Last year the USPS honored the meritorious works of such African-American greats as Shirley Chisholm, Ralph Ellison, Jimi Hendrix, C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, Edna Lewis and Wilt Chamberlain through stamps.