Preservation Virginia Blog

Jun
5

Spotlight On: Amaza Lee Meredith

Written by Sonja Ingram, Associate Director of Preservation Field Services

In honor of LGBTQ+ Pride month, we are highlighting a few Virginian preservationists and architects, including Amaza Lee Meredith, one of the nation’s few African American architects in her time. 

Writing about LGBTQ+ history can be difficult because many LGBTQ+ people from the past did not have the freedom to publicly discuss their sexuality. While we are not labeling Amaza Meredith specifically as an LGBTQ+ person, we are adding biographical information related to her long-term relationship with Dr. Edna Colson.

Amaza Lee Meredith was an artist and an educator and one of the nation’s few African American women architects during the mid-20th century. Born in Lynchburg, Meredith was the daughter of a Black mother and a White father, at a time when interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia.

Unable to enter the architectural profession because of her race and her sex, Meredith earned a teaching degree from Virginia State UniversityShe started teaching at Indian Rock School in Botetourt County, which was most likely the Indian Rock Rosenwald School (now demolished).

In 1926 Meredith moved to New York City, where she received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Columbia University in fine arts and art appreciation. Meredith later taught art at Virginia State, and went on to found Virginia State’s art department. 

At Virginia State, Meredith met Dr. Edna Meade Colson, who would become her lifetime partner. The two lived together despite broad opposition to same-sex relationships that characterized the time. 

Despite the fact that Amaza was never a registered architect, she was one of a few black architects in practice at the time. While her exact number of works is unknown, Amaza has been attributed with architectural design for houses in Virginia, Texas, and New York.

The first building designed by Meredith was Azurest South, which was completed in 1939 in the International Style. Azurest South was Meredith and Colson’s primary residence for the rest of their lives. The two lived together until Meredith died in 1984 and are buried alongside each other at Eastview Cemetery in Petersburg.

For more on Amaza Meredith see NYC LGBTQ Historic Sites Project. 

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