Harvey Gantt

Harvey Gantt

Architect, city planner, civil rights leader, and former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina

Visiting Professor 1999-2000

Hosted by the Department of Architecture

Harvey Gantt (MIT MCP ’70) is an architect, city planner, civil rights leader, and former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.


“The genius of Martin Luther King was his humanness. He cared about people genuinely, and he was just like you and me with fears and ambition and concerns, but he had this thing about him, this gift, this caring about society in such a way that he moved ordinary men and women… to do something, to being about positive change, and that’s a conviction that I moved forward from.”

HARVEY GANTT – Architect, city planner, civil rights leader, and former mayor of Charlotte, NC (2001 MLK Leadership Awards acceptance speech)


Harvey Gantt is an architect, city planner, civil rights leader, and former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. Research interests: urban design, planning, and policy; civil rights and politics.

Gantt was the first African American student to enroll in Clemson University, graduating with honors with a degree in architecture.  In 1970, he earned a Master’s degree in City Planning from MIT. After earning his MIT degree, he spent a year helping develop federally funded new communities.

In 1971, Gantt partnered with Jeffrey Huberman to found Gantt Huberman Architects in Charlotte, NC. Gantt has "a unique perspective on how good urban design can create memorable places and buildings at the center of our cities" to create projects that range from "small renovations to major downtown developments". He has been a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects and a board member of numerous committees, including the NC Board of Architecture, NAAB Accreditation Teams and the National Organization of Minority Architects.

In addition to his architecture practice, Gantt has an active career in activism and politics. He was elected to the city council and served from 1974 to 1983. From 1983 to 1987, Gantt served two terms as the first black Mayor of Charlotte. In the 1990s, he ran two unsuccessful campaigns for the United States Senate against Jesse Helms. From 1995 to 2000, Gantt chaired the National Capital Planning Commission, the U.S. government's central planning agency for federal land and buildings in the DC area. Under his leadership, the commission adopted a strategic plan for city monuments and selected sites on the National Mall for the Martin Luther King Memorial and the World War II Memorial.

The Department of Architecture was Gantt's host during his time as an MIT MLK Visiting Professor. In 2001, when Gantt was awarded an MLK Leadership Award during MIT's 27th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebrations. In nominating Gantt, Professor Bish Sanyal, chair of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, noted his "courageous and historic efforts as an activist mayor and senatorial candidate" He also cited Mr. Gantt's "exceptional commitment to addressing the problems of our nation's inner cities, and the unique roles that architects and planners can bring to this process."

From 1995 to 2000, Harvey Gantt chaired the National Capital Planning Commission, which selected sites on the National Mall for the Martin Luther King Memorial


The Education of Harvey Gantt
Producer/Director - Betsy Newman (SCETV)

In 1960, a talented African-American student from Charleston, Harvey Gantt, graduated from high school and decided to become an architect. Clemson College was the only school in South Carolina that offered a degree in his chosen field. In January of 1963, with the help of NAACP lawyer Matthew J. Perry, Gantt won a lawsuit against Clemson and was peacefully admitted to the college, making him the first African-American student to attend a formerly all-white school in South Carolina. The program is narrated by Tony Award-winning actress and singer Phylicia Rashād and features historic civil rights photographs by Cecil Williams.



"Smart Growth and Urban Revival." Remarks given at the Smart Growth Conference, sponsored by MIT's Lincoln Institute, 10 March 2000.
"The Challenges to Re-Developing Inner City America." MIT Departments of Architecture and Urban Studies and Planning, 16 November 1999.


Harvey Gantt, MCP ’70: Architect and politician focuses on cities (4/21/09)


In MLK talk, Vest notes efforts to advance minority opportunities (2/14/01)
MLK Leadership Awards go to three (1/31/01)
MLK celebration to feature Leaster talk, music and exhibit (2/2/00)
MLK Visiting Profs for 1999-2000 honored at reception (11/17/99)
Gantt to speak on urban revitalization (11/10/99)
Here and There (2/28/96)


"An Analysis of the Low-Income Analysis Process- Soul City, North Carolina" (MIT, 1970)