“One of the Nation’s First Documented African-American 
Female Architects”

Amaza Lee Meredith was born in Lynchburg Virginia on August 14, 1895. She was the eldest daughter of Emma P. Kenney and Samuel P. Meredith, a respected carpenter. Because her father was white and her mother black, Amaza’s parents could not be legally married in Virginia. The two traveled to WashingtonDC, in racially segregated railroad cars to tie the knot. But Samuel Meredith lost much of his business as a result of the controversial marriage and took his life in 1915. Despite this family tragedy, Amaza graduated from high school the same year at the top of her class, and enrolled at the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute, now Virginia StateUniversity

After college, Amaza taught in 
Botetourt County and then moved to BrooklynNew York in 1926 and enrolled in the Teacher's College of Columbia University, New York where she majored in fine arts. There she received a bachelor’s degree with honors in 1930 and a master’s degree in 1934. Amaza soon returned to Virginia State to teach art and was appointed chair of the Art Department a year later, where she remained until her retirement in 1958. She is credited for establishing Virginia State’s School of Fine Arts Department

Beyond her career at 
Virginia State, Amaza’s life was also rich in contributions. Her artistic self spilled over into many other facets of her life. For example, she exhibited her art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and in galleries in New York and North Carolina. Some works were acquired by groups, such as the Gillfield Baptist Church in PetersburgVA, where they are still displayed; while many others hang in the homes of area residents. Amaza also developed interior decorating and design skills and in the field of business coordinated color schemes for campus buildings. She also pursued architectural interests, though she had no known formal architectural training. In 1939, Amaza completed her own home, which she fully designed and built adjacent to the campus of VirginiaState. Her home, which she named “Azurest South,” was considered to be “one of the most advanced residential designs in the state in its day” and a bold investigation of the International Style, a style that espoused a complete break with architectural traditions.

Though Amaza was never a registered architect, in her time, she was one of only a handful of black architects in practice and one of the nation’s few female black architects. (According to the 1910 U.S. Census only 59 blacks were active as architects and another 47 as draftsmen).   In the ensuing decades, Amaza enjoyed a limited architectural career designing for friends and family in Virginia, Texas, and Sag Harbor, a Long Island (NY) resort for wealthy whites, including the Roosevelt family, where she and her sister, Maude Kenney Meredith Terry, worked together to create an enclave of vacation homes for middle-class blacks they named "Azurest North." They worked with others to establish the "Azurest Syndicate, Inc." where lots were sold to individual investors, who built summer, or year-round cottages on the land. Amaza designed at least two of these residences: 1) Terry Cottage, summer home for her sister, Maude Terry: and 2) Edendot, belonging to friends Ed and Dot Spaulding.

Amaza was also an active member of the Virginia State University Alumni Association. In 1943, she was one of the architects of the first “Capital Campaign” for the Association, with the goal to build an Alumni House. In 1949, she provided several sets of blueprints for the proposed Alumni House however, plans fell through by 1962.   Undaunted, Ms. Meredith tried another approach: she willed half of Azurest South to the Alumni Association in the hopes that the dream for which she had worked so long would become a reality following her death in 1984. The Association purchased the remaining interest in the property from the estate of Dr. Edna Colson, another retired University faculty member and joint owner of Azurest South, following her death in 1986. This marked Azurest South as the official “Alumni House” for the Association, making Ms. Meredith’s dream a reality.

 In 2009, Amaza Meredith was recognized as an African American Trailblazer in Virginia History by the Library of Virginia. 



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