Last week was homecoming at many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) around the country. It’s a week marked by events meant to bring alumni and students together to celebrate the unique missions and histories of their school. As an alumnus of Morehouse College, the nation’s only all-male HBCU, homecoming is special to me. I didn’t spend my week reveling with classmates at my alma mater, however. Instead, I spent it writing about another HBCU, Morris Brown College. Here’s why:
HBCUs have served as pillars of the Black community for centuries. But sadly, many of these pivotal institutions of history, culture, and opportunity face a number of daunting odds—specifically state disinvestment in higher education— that make it difficult for them to keep their doors open. The story of Morris Brown College, as I report in a new article for Buzzfeed, makes this struggle all too clear.
Established in 1881 to foster the moral, spiritual, and intellectual growth of Black boys and girls, Morris Brown College is unique in that it is one of the few HBCUs founded by Black Americans. Additionally, in contrast to peer institutions that were geared more towards affluent Black Americans, Morris Brown College was created to educate and uplift the most economically and socially disadvantaged Black students. However, a financial scandal has hampered this mission over the last decade. In 2003, the college had an enrollment of 2,700 students; today, less than 20 are enrolled, taught by mostly volunteer faculty. The campus all but abandoned and sold off.
But Morris Brown is on the rebound. Administrators have overcome a mountain of debt and doubt and have a plan to resurrect the institution.
The story of Morris Brown's rise, fall, and improbable comeback is one of the most fascinating I've ever reported. I committed to telling the story because of what I think it says about this nation’s relationship to Black schools and Black students. Moreover, I believe the story of how Morris Brown has been kept afloat for 13 years through tremendous odds shows just how important these schools are to their alumni and the Black community at large.