In 1902 Julian Frances Abele was the first African American to graduate from the Graduate School of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. He was hired by the Horace Trumbauer architectural firm and spent his entire career there. He was responsible for the design on the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Widener Memorial Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Abele also designed many of the Gothic buildings on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. But because of his race, the university did not originally celebrate the architect of many of its most important structures. Abele died in 1950 having never visited the Duke campus where he had played such an important role.
Abele’s role in designing the Duke campus did not become widely known until 1988. That year the university hung a portrait of Adele in the main administration building and another portrait was placed in the Rubenstein Library.
Now Richard Brodhead, president of Duke University, has called for the formation of an advisory board to come up with a plan to give proper recognition to Julian Abele by February 2016. President Brodhead said that “Julian Abele envisioned the physical world of Duke University. It is time to ensure that his legacy is clearly known so that future generations of students and faculty can be inspired by his genius.”