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Morris Brown: A timeline of the life and near-death of an institution

Morris Brown, the first HBCU in Georgia founded by Black people, has been open since 1881 but filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and currently has only 55 students enrolled. Below are some of the moments from the school’s history.


Founded by the Georgia Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and named for one of its bishops. It is the first HBCU in Georgia that was founded by Black people for Black people.

Opens doors to 107 students on a tract of land at Houston Street and Boulevard.

Opens a theology department, which becomes the Turner Theological Seminary in 1900.

Enrollment reaches more than 1,000.

The college receives a state charter and becomes Morris Brown University.

The school's rapid growth and financial practices force Morris Brown into bankruptcy.

History of HBCUs
Started in the North, needed most in the South

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The seventh president, the Rev. W.A. Fountain, reorganizes the school substantially, leading it out of bankruptcy. Atlanta University has vacated its campus in West End, and Fountain persuades its trustees to let Morris Brown take over the campus.

Fountain hires numerous new faculty members and shores up the school's finances during his 22 years as president.

Morris Brown is crowned Black College Football's National Champion. The school would build a powerful sports program throughout the decade and would win the same title in 1941 and 1951. In their last year of football, 2002, they finished 1-11.

Threatened Heritage
HBCUs struggle across the nation

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Morris Brown joins the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of the area's historically Black colleges.

The school dismisses Fountain amid allegations of financial improprieties and hires John H. Lewis, who modernizes science labs, expands the library and builds more dorm space for women students.

The college embarks on another expansion, adding a student union building and new science and language departments.

The school withdraws from the Atlanta University Center in protest of a reorganization by AUC. But the trustees ask to rejoin later that year.

New president Dolores Cross inflates enrollment numbers to draw in millions of dollars in federal student aid. She diverts the money to expenses and to pay down Brown's enormous debt.

The movie “Drumline” is partially filmed at the college.

Cross and Singh plead guilty to one count of embezzlement. Singh agrees to testify against his former boss in exchange for a reduced sentence.

OutKast releases "Morris Brown," which features the school's Marching Wolverines band.

Cross, 70, is sentenced to five years on probation, including a year of home confinement. Singh gets five years on probation, plus 18 months of home confinement. Both are ordered to pay restitution and fines.

Morris Brown's Future
Then president, Dr. Stanley Pritchett talks about recovery

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At its peak, Morris Brown enrolled 2,700 students. But the loss of accreditation has caused enrollment to plummet to 72 in the fall of this year. Only 10 faculty members remain, but Morris Brown continues to enroll and teach students.

Water service is cut off to the campus because of unpaid bills.

Stanley Pritchett Sr. becomes president of the college. Debt stands at $28 million.

The college reaches a deal with the U.S. Department of Education to pay $500,000 on its debt of $9.4 million; the balance is forgiven.

The college files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and erases tens of millions of dollars in debt.

Morris Brown files $20 million turnaround plan (July 2013)

Morris Brown is Still Open
Despite its issues, the college still strives to educate

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December 2018
Stanley Pritchett, who had been the college’s president since 2010, announces he’s resigning at the end of the year.

March 2019
Kevin James is named interim president.

March 2019
Morris Brown College looks to become accredited again

January 2020
The African Methodist Episcopal Church board’s Executive Committee voted to forgive more than $4 million in debt owed by the college.

May 2020
James is named president, removing the interim title.

A New President
Kevin James intends to continue moving forward

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November 2020
The Virginia-based Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools accepted the college’s application for accreditation.

April 13, 2021
TRACCS approved the college’s candidacy for accreditation.

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