“When I first found out I would be the first Black woman to obtain this degree, I was hit with a variety of emotions. I was excited to be in this position of trailblazing, and I knew it would be encouraging for other Black women looking to get into design. I was also proud to have been here, this program is not easy, and I had to overcome a lot to accomplish it, but I was also saddened that in 2022, there are still firsts like this to be had. It honestly is overdue, and I feel like there is room for improvement in the architecture world, and in the architecture curriculum to highlight and showcase more females and people of color designers,” said McCleave.
Licensure laws were first passed in 1897. However, Paul Revere Williams, the first Black architect to receive a license, did not have his license granted until 1921. In 1942, Beverly Lorraine Greene became the first known licensed Black woman architect in the country. She was 27 years old.
“We have learned time and time again that representation matters, and how important it is to be able to see yourself in other people doing different things, so I hope that my journey can be an encouragement for other women and people of color to get into architecture and design,” said McCleave. “Black women are deeply underrepresented as architects and designers. I strongly believe that great design is a right not a privilege, and for that to happen, there needs to be designers that are a part of and deeply understand the communities they are designing for.”