Black Bottom Digital ArchiveHistorical MapHistorical FiguresHistorical SitesOral HistoriesAboutMenu

Donald F. White

Working in a field dominated by white architects to the present day, Donald White was the first Black American graduate from the University of Michigan’s Taubman School of Architecture in 1932. After earning his license six years later, White became Michigan’s first licensed Black Architect. Though he mostly built churches that were razed in the 1950s and 1960s, the Rightway Baptist Church and the Aijalon Baptist Church are two of his surviving works. As Karen Burton of the Noir Design Party explained in an interview with Doug Tribou, "Black architects would have had to find someone to commission their projects, find someone who had the money to build. Churches certainly had a larger treasury than most people, so churches were the types of projects that black architects could get quite easily."

In 1946, White formed the architecture firm White & Griffin with fellow Black Taubman graduate Francis Griffin. Its mission was to support and provide greater opportunities to a new generation of Black architects, one of whom was Nathan Johnson.



Matthew Piper, “Designing the Future: The Legacy of Black Architects in Detroit.” Curbed Detroit. July 5, 2019. Accessed July 18, 2020.

Doug Tribou, “Donald White, Michigan’s First Licensed Black Architect, Broke New Ground.” Michigan Radio. February 17, 2020. Accessed July 18, 2020

View more historical figures