As the story goes, architect J. Max Bond Jr. became fascinated by design in his youth after encountering a staircase at the Tuskegee Institute. That single curiosity is said to have set in motion a career that embodied humanistic values, emphasizing design that could be widely accessed and appreciated. Although this anecdote from his youth shapes a legend, the work of the architect was grounded very much in reality, considering the most urgent needs of our time.
Undoubtedly the most significant black architect in New York during the 20th century, Bond’s impact was the result of decades invested in increasing the visibility of black art and history. Bond was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1935 to a family entrenched in communities of higher learning and social activism. His father, J. Max Bond Sr., was an academic who served the president of the University of Liberia in the 1950s. His mother, Ruth Clement Bond, was a prominent civic leader, quilter, and teacher. And his cousin Julian Bond was the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for over a decade.