Morris Brown College

Morris Brown College was founded in 1881 by the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in the basement of Big Bethel A.M.E. Church in Atlanta Georgia. It has operated continuously for 142 years as an educational institution committed to providing its students with a nurturing environment that supports achievement of their academic goal; thereby, positioning them to become significantly contributing citizens in a most challenging global society.

The circumstances that evoked the founding of Morris Brown are traditionally linked to a visit by a group of Clark College trustees to Big Bethel to interest the A.M.E. Church supporters in furnishing a room in their institution. In response to the proposition they presented, layman Steward Wiley said, “If we can furnish a room at Clark College, why can’t we build a school of our own?” These words ignited a flame in the mind of Reverend Wesley John Gaines who went on to become founder of Morris Brown College. On January 5, 1881, during the North Georgia Annual Conference at Big Bethel, he introduced a resolution calling for the establishment in Atlanta of an institution for the moral, spiritual and intellectual growth of Negro boys and girls. The steps between the resolution and the opening were few and simple: the Georgia Conference was persuaded to join the endeavor. An assembly of trustees from both conferences convened at Big Bethel and selected the Boulevard site as the school’s home. In May of 1885, the State of Georgia granted a charter to Morris Brown College of the A.M.E. Church.

On October 15, 1885, just 20 years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, 107 students and nine teachers walked into a crude wooden structure at the corner of Boulevard and Houston Streets in Atlanta, Georgia, marking the opening of the first educational institution in Georgia under sole African-American patronage. That institution was Morris Brown College, named to honor the memory of the second consecrated Bishop of the A.M.E. Church.

The fact of its founding as a child of the church not only determined the institution’s philosophical trust but also created a system of support which functions to channel its early energies toward developing programs to serve the needs of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The college, at that time, was largely dependent upon a denomination who’s constituency was primarily unskilled, untrained, and economically unstable. In order to survive, the college had to absorb into its enrollment a large segment of underprivileged students whose parents were loyal supporters of the church that kept its doors open. What began as a survival strategy of Morris Brown College in 1881 became the liberation cry for black masses and the country at large in the 1960s. At that point of higher education, that cry was heard in all colleges, black and white, large and small, public and private in the form of pressures to develop programs in tune with the economic needs of economically disadvantaged youth. For Morris Brown, however, it was a matter of doing what came naturally, and doing it better and more effectively.

Morris Brown College operates as a private, coeducational, liberal arts college engaged in teaching, research, public service in the arts, humanities, educational, professional programs, social sciences, and natural sciences.

Morris Brown College in its commitment to academic excellence provides experiences that foster and enhance intellectual, personal and interpersonal development for students who have demonstrated the potential to compete in a challenging undergraduate liberal arts program of study. Moreover, since educational endeavors may not be circumscribed by limitations that students bring with them to the institution, the college and its commitment to liberal admissions policies, provides access to personal development and intellectual growth for students.

The primary mission of the college is to provide educational opportunities in a Christian environment that will enable its students to become fully functional persons in society. In accomplishing this mission, the college prepares graduates to live meaningful and personally rewarding lives, therefore, enabling them to make socially constructive and culturally relevant contributions to society.

To that end, more than 3,000 alumni are serving throughout the world in positions of high authority and responsibility. Morris Brown College alumni are serving as college presidents, elected public officials, military leaders, corporate executives, entertainers, entrepreneurs, religious leaders in major denominations, presidents of banks and other financial institutions.

The college is proud of its tradition of serving the educational needs of the best and brightest young minds, while simultaneously providing educational support to students who might not otherwise receive the opportunity to compete on the college level.

To use a line from the Morris Brown College
hymn, the college continues to be a “haven for all hungry souls,” as it provides educational opportunities for those who have demonstrated capabilities for learning without regard to their socioeconomic circumstances.