The idea of The African American Academy came about when parents and
administrators noticed that African American students were lagging behind their
white and Asian peers in grades and test scores. They noticed that there was a lack
of African American teachers, especially male teachers and that there were no
cultural differences in teaching and learning styles for African American students.
Many people and organizations came together to go to the Seattle School Board
and proposed a school where African American students would be able to get a
proper education in an environment where they have an African-centered
curriculum, small focus class sizes, peers, teachers and support staff that were
African American. The proposal for The African American Academy was approved in
1990, in September 1991 its first location was kindergarten through fifth grade at
Coleman School in Central District, a year later it was relocated to Rainier Valley, in
1993 it was relocated to the Magnolia neighborhood. In 2000 it was permanently
relocated to the south end of Beacon Hill in a three story building designed by
African American architect Melvin Edward Streeter.
Mel Streeter was born in Riverside , California in 1931. In 1950 he attended the
University of Oregon on a basketball scholarship then graduated with a Bachelor of
Architecture degree in 1955. He had a hard time finding a position in the
architectural community in Seattle because he was black, but he eventually got a
position working with architects Paul Hayden Kirk and Fred Bassetti. He eventually
founded his own firm, Mel Streeter Architects in 1967, the third African-American-
owned firm in Seattle. He is an Award-winning African-American Architect
responsible for many projects aimed at helping the black community. He was a
Seattle Planning Commissioner, a founding member of the AIA Seattle Diversity
Roundtable, and the Tabor 100.
When he received the commission for the African American Academy he decided to
model the school on the cluster concept of a West African “Dogon” family village.
The three-story building is designed for 650 students, has two classroom wings
containing a 90-seat lecture hall, cafeteria, and gymnasium with a stage.
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