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”.  Founded by African Americans in 1881, Morris Brown lost its accreditation to financial pressures and scandal in 2002.  Today its largely abandoned campus stands as a testament to a proud past, a challenging present and an uncertain future, not only for this one institution but for all of America’s historically black colleges and universities.

I was granted unique access to the hauntingly silent campus of Morris Brown with the intent to illuminate the stories told in its stilled classrooms and hallways.  In the resulting body of work, the proud past remains in the extraordinary quality of the facilities, school desks arrayed ready for class, faces of students in photographs from happier days.  The challenging present resides starkly in broken stained glass, evidence of havoc wreaked by scrappers, hints of homeless humanity.  And the uncertain future weighs heavily in the headlines: bankruptcy proceedings, a forthcoming professional football stadium next door, recycled pronouncements of plans to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood.   Mixed with all of these are layers of timeless emotion…. wistfulness, pride, angst, loneliness, hope.

A book of this work has just been published by the University of Georgia Press in association with the Georgia Humanities Council.  The publication 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 opens later this fall in Atlanta.  Opportunities are being sought for subsequent showings.

 

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