10 That Changed America Blog

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Langston Terrace

Dan Protess

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“High design” and “humane” are not terms we ordinarily associate with public housing, but Langston Terrace in Washington, DC, is no ordinary public housing project. It was the nation’s second federally-funded development, designed in 1935 for African American residents by pioneering African American architect Hilyard Robinson. Robinson’s sleek, two-tone brick buildings suggested the promise of modernity, and his U-shaped plan not only allowed daylight to penetrate every unit, but also created a community gathering place at the center of the hilly site. The buildings’ stark geometry looked amazing on camera, as did a striking terra cotta frieze titled “Progress of the Negro Race”.

Our experts were author and poet Eloise Little Greenfield, who grew up at Langston Terrace, and architect Melvin Mitchell. While we were in Washington, we dropped by Howard University to interview our old friend Reed Kroloff. Once again, he was sharp, eloquent, and hilarious.