Our First Year: 130 Years Old This Month, Morris Brown a Cornerstone of Atlanta University Consortium
College established by former slaves educated legions of community leaders across Georgia, South
Editor's Note: Cascade Patch celebrates its first anniversary on Tues., Nov. 29, 2011. This story was one of several on Morris Brown College this year. For more top Cascade Patch posts, see the "Our First Year" page under the "News" tab at the top of the Cascade Patch home page.
Cascade Heights resident Sharron White has deep roots at Morris Brown College.
Not only is she a graduate of the 130-year-old college--the first Georgia educational institution established and funded by African Americans--she was crowned Miss Morris Brown in 1963.
Her ties to the school go back more than a century.
"Morris Brown is a family college and tradition," said White, an Atlanta native and a former editor of the school's Wolverine Observer newspaper. "My grandmother, Dolly Glover, graduated from Morris Brown in 1890."
Morris Brown, 643 Martin Luther King Dr., is distinguished as one of seven colleges that have comprised the internationally-recognized Atlanta University Center consortium, established in 1929. Though membership has changed over the years, the colleges include the original AU members--Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College--as well as Morris Brown, Clark (now Clark-Atlanta), Gammon (now Interdenominational Theological Center) and Morehouse School of Medicine.
The schools have made southwest Atlanta home to one of the most important predominantly African-American centers of higher education in the United States.
A Vibrant History
Morris Brown was founded on Jan. 5, 1881, by former slaves affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. It was named for the Rev. Morris Brown of Charleston, S.C., the second Bishop of the AME Church. [see portrait and caption under full image].
The school has a vibrant history and it was one of the only college options during segregation for the legions of lower-income, rural African-American students who came to Atlanta with the goal of becoming a teacher. Many returned to their hometowns across Georgia and in other states to teach school and serve as community leaders.
Morris Brown has graduated over 20,000 students. Famous alumni include Civil Rights activist Hosea Williams, who earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the school; Edwina Hill, the school's first Rhodes Scholar and former principal of Morris Brown's former Oglethorpe School, once the city's only high school option for African Americans; and, Georgia state representative Donzella James.
Since the late 1990s, Morris Brown has struggled with a dramatic decline in enrollment that alumni, faculty and community leaders have desperately fought to reverse.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked the college's accreditation in 2002 when criminal investigations revealed that the president, Dolores Cross, and financial aid director, Parvesh Singh, systematically misappropriated federal monies for student scholarships to cover operating costs.
The accreditation loss hit Morris Brown hard. Federal funding ceased and students lost financial aid. The United Negro College Fund, the biggest non-profit contributor to historically black colleges, terminated its support. The college discontinued its athletic programs.
School alumni, faculty, AME members and other supporters have poured millions into the fund-raising campaigns over the last few decades, in an attempt to staunch declining enrollment and mismanagement problems at the school.
In the early 1990s, school officials say alumni launched a campaign that retired most of the college's $10 million deficit. After the 2002 mismanagement debacle, radio personality Tom Joyner made several offers to buy the college. Eventually, in 2003, his charitable foundation gave the school $1 million to assist with its immediate needs.
Currently, the college offers only three major fields of concentration: organizational management and leadership, business administration, and general education. This week, officials estimated enrollment, online students included, stands at 100.
Sharron White commends the leadership of Dr. Stanley J. Pritchett, Sr., Morris Brown College's President for his diligence in keeping the school's spirit alive. "He is committed to the school's future," White said. "He's working hard for our school."
According to Chief of Staff Robert Johnson, Morris Brown may have a future in the online education world. Morris Brown now offers an online undergraduate degree in organizational management and leadership (OML).
OML is defined as the art of applying general principles of systematic planning and problem-solving to skillfully direct the united efforts of an organization or unit(s) of an organization. The program, Johnson said, is suitable for those seeking employment opportunities and career advancement in business, industry, government, education, ministry, and non-profit organizations.
Other online classes may be offered if accreditation is approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Johnson said accreditation check points are in place and positive results are expected in 2012.
Said Johnson, "We look forward to a continued positive perspective of Morris Brown in months to come."
[Editor's Note: To view and contribute to a comprehensive photo gallery of MBC go to: Pictures Tell the 130 Year Morris Brown Story].