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    Fly performing archival research of early African-American communities. - photo courtesy Everett Fly

As of 2019, The Directory of African American Architects, which draws its listings from the licensing boards of all 50 states, contained 2,300 names. Of these, 467 were women. This means that of the 113,000 licensed architects in this country, about 2 percent are African-American, and 0.4 percent are African American women. Meanwhile, African Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the United States’ total population, according to 2016 Census Bureau estimates. 

The underrepresentation among architects of peoples of color, in general, and black people, in particular, is widely acknowledged. Its causes are complicated and historical. A 2016 report by the AIA, titled “Diversity in the Profession of Architecture,” cited a number of perceived factors impacting the representation of minorities, including the high cost of obtaining a degree, architecture’s relatively poor earning potential compared to other professions, and the scarcity of diverse role models. The report also stated that “minority students have little knowledge of architecture as a career option.”

What are we missing out on by this underrepresentation? What do minorities have to contribute to architecture? To begin to answer these questions, and in order to understand what barriers to entry might still exist, Texas Architect spoke with four black architects practicing today in the state and elsewhere:

Everett Fly
A landscape architect who has documented and preserved early African American building sites.

Nkiru Mokwe Gelles
A British/Nigerian immigrant working at one of Austin’s most cutting-edge practices.

Jonathan Moody, AIA
The CEO of the largest minority-owned firm in the country.

DK Osseo-Asare
An academic practitioner whose research and design work explores the frontiers of design equity as well as the very future of the profession.  


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Admittedly, I usually just skim though my copy of the magazine and look at the imagery and for names of friends or colleagues, especially the Design Awards issue. With social issues continuing to be a topic of news and my personal reading list, I was interested in the Four Black Architects interviews. I could not have been more delighted in the quality and topics of conversation with these men. All four interviews were compelling reading, and provided me with a level of gratitude for each of their perseverance and for the willingness of a few key people to take an interested and support the abilities and dreams each of them had. Thank you for dedicating the pages to these stories, and I hope we can find space to tell more stories about designers of color in the future.


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