Beverly Loraine Greene is thought to be by most historical accounts as the first African-American woman to be registered as an architect in the United States. Greene’s designs have been used to erect buildings at New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the UNESCO United Nations headquarters in Paris, France.
Greene was born October 4, 1915 in Chicago, Ill. She grew up middle class with her lawyer father and stay-at-home mother. Greene earned the first of her three college degrees in 1936 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Greene earned an undergraduate degree in architectural engineering, and a master’s degree in city planning and housing the following year. Despite her impressive education and skills, Greene had difficultly locating work. Greene was employed by the Chicago Housing Authority but left for New York shortly after being registered as an architect on December 28, 1942.
While in New York City, Greene found it easier to find work. She was hired to perform design work for the Stuyvesant Town private housing project in lower Manhattan, which was funded by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. As in Chicago, Greene would never be able to live in buildings she helped design because of the racial discrimination at the time. Greene left the design firm working on the housing project, and earned a master’s degree in architecture in 1945.
Greene worked for several top firms, designing plans for an arts complex at Sarah Lawrence and a theater at the University of Arkansas. The design work Greene did for the NYU buildings would mostly become erect after her passing in 1957 at age 41. The UNESCO building opened in 1958 and the last of the NYU buildings were completed in 1961.
According to one account, Greene designed the funeral home where her memorial service was held.