Honoring the Legacy of Norma Merrick Sklarek: The ‘Rosa Parks of Architecture’

Image: Atlanta Blackstar

The year was 1928. It was the year that the world saw the first fully air-conditioned office building open, Amelia Earhart make her first Atlantic Ocean flight and the last recording of Ma Rainey, “Mother of Blues.”

That same year in Harlem, where wealthy residents of color were becoming land owners, Dr. Walter Ernest Merrick and Amy Merrick’s child, Norma Merrick Sklarek, was born. Their daughter would later make history as the first female Black architect. Little did they know how impactful the 1928 earmarking of 640 acres of land by the Los Angeles City Council for a new airport would be to Sklarek, until 58 years later when her completed design on the historic Terminal One for the landmark Los Angeles International Airport was unveiled.

“Until the end of World War II, I think there was strong discrimination against women in architecture. The schools had a quota, it was obvious, a quota against women and a quota against blacks. In architecture, I had absolutely no role model. I’m happy today to be a role model for others that follow,” Sklarek said.

Known as the “Rosa Parks of Architecture,” Norma Merrick Sklarek was born to a father from St. Vincent and a mother from Barbados. Raised as an African-American woman with West Indian heritage, her father is credited with urging the young Merrick to interest herself in nontraditional leisure activities like fishing and assisting him with housework.

More from Atlanta Blackstar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

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