“During a period of de jure segregation, Paul R. Williams mastered architecture, a public art form, and was as prolific as he was persistent. His legacy is therefore as much about the character of the man himself as it is the scale, variety, and ambitions within a professional practice wed to realizations of perpetual excellence,” said LeRonn P. Brooks, associate curator for modern and contemporary collections at GRI. “His career and life invite new histories to be written by the countless scholars who will have unprecedented access to this tremendously important archive.”
Segregation often framed the context in which Williams worked. He learned to draw upside down in order to sketch for clients from across the table—for the benefit of any white clients who might have been uneasy sitting next to an African American. He toured construction sites with hands clasped behind his back because he was not sure every person would want to shake a Black man’s hand. Such conditions add further resonance to the enduring significance of Williams’ work.
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