Five Black Voices Who Made Pioneering Contributions to Real Estate and Architecture

February marks the celebration of Black History Month, and for well over a century, both at the local and national level, many prominent African Americans have had an important impact on real estate, fair housing, and architecture. Following are five individuals who made indelible marks on the industry that continue to prove significant in Chicago and beyond.

Philip Payton Jr. 1876-1917

As a real estate broker, property manager and building owner, Philip Payton Jr. is known for providing Black residents of New York City access to affordable housing in the Manhattan community of Harlem. In the early 1900s construction began on the subway line running from lower Manhattan to Harlem, precipitating the development of apartment houses near the line. Payton is credited with attracting African Americans to the area and creating the housing opportunities that were critical in establishing the culturally rich neighborhood that still thrives today.


Anderson Hunt Brown 1880-1974

The son of former slaves, A.H. Brown became a civil rights activist and businessman who dedicated his real estate career to developing residential and commercial properties in underserved neighborhoods in West Virginia. He was also responsible for leasing offices to Black entrepreneurs, creating one of the first Black-owned shared office spaces. Brown eventually used his wealth and influence to advance civil rights causes including launching court battles that struck down segregation laws.


Beverly Loraine Greene 1915-1957

In 1942, Beverly Loraine Greene became the first Black female architect licensed in the United States. Prior to that, she made history by becoming the first African American female to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in architectural engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Greene began her career with the Chicago Housing Authority and went on to design several renowned buildings. Her most famous is the UNESCO United Nations Headquarters in Paris, which she helped design with architect Marcel Breuer.


Marion Maner 1920-2013

Marion Maner was a trailblazer in Chicago real estate, founding Maner Realty in 1956 and becoming one of Chicago’s first African American brokers. He went on to become the first Black president of the Chicago Association of REALTORSâ in 1977. Throughout his career, Maner fought housing discrimination and helped many individuals realize their dream of owning a home.


John Warren Moutoussamy 1922-1995

After graduating with a degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he studied under Mies Van Der Rohe, John Warren Moutoussamy became the first Black architect to design a high-rise building in Chicago. Somewhat astonishingly, that building, the Johnson Publishing Company headquarters on Michigan Avenue, remains the only downtown Chicago tower designed by a Black architect. Moutoussamy also designed buildings at several Chicago city colleges as well as the Regents Park towers in the Kenwood neighborhood.


Written by @properties
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