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Morris Brown: A Cultural Pillar in Peril

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Get Down Mo’ Brown!

Morris Brown College was founded in 1881 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church and began teaching classes in 1885 with 107 African American male and female students. Since the beginning of the school, Morris Brown has been committed to academic excellence and social advancement through world-class education.

“My daddy and my granddaddy and my grandma went to Mo’ B,” said Blaire Eberhart, an Atlanta native that currently attends Fordham University in New York City. “I mean my daddy always talking about back in the day how that was the school. Morris Brown was the AUC in some aspect.”

Like Eberhart, many Atlanta natives were raised around the prestige that was Morris Brown College, whether it be Bubbling Brown Sugar, the Morris Brown danceline, and the Marching Wolverines, or the strong black role models the emerged from the school into the community.

Hosea Williams, Class of 1949, graduated from Morris Brown with a degree in chemistry and went on to Atlanta University where he received his masters in chemistry. After being beaten by a angry group of white citizens, he became passionate about Civil Rights committing his life to being an activist and leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

James Alan McPherson, Class of 1965, also graduated from Morris Brown before attaining a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1968. In 1978 his collection of short stories, Elbow Room, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, which made McPherson the first African American to win the Pulitzer for fiction.

“I hate to know that it’s gone,” stated Diamond Luster, Atlanta native that has recently transferred from Spelman College to Georgia State University. “My mom went there before transferring to Spelman, and she always talks about her experiences there. Also most of my parent’s friends went to MB and go so hard for the school. I hate that they’re losing something that they hold dear.”

Morris Brown was once a place of the sincerest students that upheld the history and tradition of the school. This tragedy makes one ponder the questions of what happened to the pride that once was. What happened to the arrogance that supported the statement “Get an education at Mo’ Brown, Be Mo’ Betta, Be Mo’ Down?”

What Stopped Mo’ B?

In the popular chant from the Morehouse Spirit Night every NSO, we exclaim that Mo’ B can’t stop the house, but we never stop to think what stopped Mo’ B. In 2010 the Maroon Tiger ran a story by then freshman Christian Saint-Vil which outlined the state of the campus in regards to Morris Brown’s membership to the AUC, and corrected the common belief that the school wasn’t accredited.

“We often question Morris Brown students’ reasons for remaining in a school that does not have accreditation,” wrote Saint-Vil. “However, [Terronce] Estell, class of 1999, an admissions recruiter and student activities coordinator for Morris Brown, says that Morris Brown does have accreditation – academic, not federal.”

Accreditation through the Board of Education, and accreditation through a federal body like Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, SACS, differ, because federal accreditation supplies the school with federal funding through Pell grants and federal loans, and on April 7, 2003, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools voted to uphold the decision to rescind the accreditation of Morris Brown College, reported The Hilltop, Howard University’s Newspaper.

Currently the campus is battling foreclosure and lost wages within the current staff.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the college administration owes thousands to multiple employees who haven’t been paid in 3 months.

“It’s disheartening [what’s happening at Morris Brown],” said sophomore Tavon Betts. “I’m very hopeful that whether, or not it remains a college, it will empower every HBCU to be cognizant of the status of their institutions, while giving the students a sense of greater pride for their institutions.”

With less than 4% alumni giving, it is difficult for Morris Brown to continue in its current capacity as a private liberal arts college. Since losing their accreditation they have eliminated all but three majors, and have had to sell buildings to two separate charter schools, one of which is a primary service partner with Morehouse and Spelman Bonner Offices of Community Service.

Since the beginning of this tragedy school there has been national coverage including the signature story by CNN, Historically Black and Broke from a 2009 broadcast. Morris Brown has kept the faith and been true to the statement “We’re not closed, you’re just closed minded.”

– Reginald Hutchins

reginaldhutch@gmail.com

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