Without Regard to Sex, Race or Color

A large bell hangs in the clock tower overlooking the now quiet campus of Morris Brown College.  Its inscription reads, in part, Dedicated to the Education of Youth, Without Regard to Sex, Race or Color

Predominantly in the decades after the Civil War, about 120 colleges were established to educate African Americans.  Over time these schools became known as historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).  One of these colleges is Morris Brown.

Morris Brown was founded in 1881, one of the rare HBCUs founded by African Americans as most were founded by white philanthropists and missionaries from outside the South.  But over time the college’s finances became increasingly precarious, and in 2003 the school lost its accreditation to financial pressures and scandal.  Today its campus is largely abandoned. 

Andrew Feiler was granted unique access to the hauntingly silent campus of Morris Brown and spent a year shooting a sixty image body or work.  A book of this work, Without Regard to Sex, Race, or Color, was recently published by the University of Georgia Press.  Its title is inspired by the inscription on the school bell. 

During Andrew’s time on campus, he sought visual moments and emotional touch points that illuminate the stories in these stilled classrooms and hallways.  But in the research that he did as part of this work, one statistic is glaring:  The roughly one hundred HBCUs that remain are a mere 3% of colleges in America but they represent more than 10% of African Americans who go to college and more than 25% who earn degrees.  These facts replant this story firmly in the midst of one of the core debates raging in our society: how do we create opportunity in America?  How do we create onramps to the middle class?

A book of this work was recently published by the University of Georgia Press in association with Georgia Humanities.  The publication includes includes ten historical images, sixty contemporary images, and essays by Robert E. James, Pellom McDaniels III, Amalia K. Amaki, and Loretta Parham.  An accompanying exhibition is currently traveling.  Opportunities are being sought for additional venues.

 

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