Morgan State Preservation Project Encourages African Americans in Architecture
September 04, 2018
By Carly O'Connell

This summer, six students from Morgan State University (MSU), a historically black university in Maryland, participated in a hands-on historical preservation project called “Touching History: Preservation in Practice.” The project is part of a pilot program to increase African American representation in architecture and related career paths.

MSU’s press release cites statistics from the National Architectural Accrediting Board showing that 42 percent of all architecture students are white and that African American women make up one of the smallest demographics of licensed architects at only 0.3 percent. There has been little growth in recent years when it comes to the percentage of architects who are racial minorities, but projects like Touching History aim to change that.

Morgan State University partnered with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s HOPE Crew, and the National Park Service’s Western Center for Historic Preservation to bring real world experience to select students from its School of Architecture and Planning. Akiel Allen, Tiffany Dockins, Nathaniel Mitchell, Jamil Nelson, Taylor Proctor, and Monique Robinson participated in special training and then set to work restoring the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture, the oldest museum building in the United States.

Throughout the summer, the students completed additional training, took field trips to historic locations in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, and compiled portfolios on the importance of preserving historic buildings on MSU’s campus. In the future, the organizers hope to open similar programs at more historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“The success of HOPE Crew highlights a hands-on approach to saving places that—beyond addressing deferred maintenance at historic sites—is making a positive difference in the lives of future preservationists and the communities where they serve,” said Monica Rhodes, associate director for the HOPE crew. “We’re excited to continue broadening the preservation movement with our partners and to launch this new training program for college students while raising awareness of the rich cultural legacy of HBCUs.”

At a Glance

Member Institution: Morgan State University

Initiative: Touching History: Preservation in Practice

Goal: Bring African American young professionals into historic preservation and related career paths, such as architecture and conservation, and raise awareness of the cultural legacy of HBCUs.