Langston Terrace represents a pioneering architectural effort by and for Washington's black community during the depression. Named for United States representative from Virginia John Mercer Langston (1829–1897), the 274-unit complex was designed by Washington's outstanding African-American architect as the city's first low-rent housing erected for blacks under the Public Works Administration. Langston was briefly the acting president of nearby Howard University, its only black president before 1926, and later dean of the law school. Construction was begun within a year after passage of the landmark public housing legislation and completed three years later in 1938.
Robinson graduated from Columbia's School of Architecture, afterward traveling extensively in Europe, where he was inspired by experimental new housing developments of the time. He designed Langston Terrace following avant-garde European ideas concerning suburban habitations within a dense urban environment. Architectural critic Lewis Mumford, who saw the model exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in