One of the first historically black colleges and universities in the country, Morehouse College was founded as the Augusta Institute in 1867, a mere two years after the end of the US Civil War. The Augusta Institute was originally located in the basement of the Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, one of the oldest independently-owned African-American churches in the United States. The school’s initial mission was to train black men to enter into the ministry and the field of education. Today, the college continues to strive to produce “academically superior, morally conscious leaders.”
Rev. William Jefferson White, a Baptist minister, was the founder of the Augusta Institute. In 1879 the school moved to the basement of the Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, changing its name to the Atlanta Baptist Seminary. The seminary then moved to its current location in the West End of Atlanta. It wasn’t until 1913, with the death of the Augusta Institute’s founder and yet another name change, that Atlanta Baptist College became Morehouse College, named after the secretary of the Northern Baptist Home Mission Society, Henry L. Morehouse.
During the first decade of the twentieth century, Morehouse established an academic philosophy that ran counter to Booker T. Washington’s educational strategy. While Washington thought that African-Americans should focus on trades in order to advance in society, the college sought to provide students with an academically rigorous liberal arts education.
Morehouse’s grounds cover 61 acres, a relatively small setting for a college campus; of course, most other college campuses are not located so close to downtown Atlanta. A stroll through campus reveals a number of monuments to notable Morehouse personalities: a statue of former president Benjamin Mays, an obelisk in honor of philosopher Howard Thurman, and of course, a statue of civil rights activist and Morehouse alum Martin Luther King, Jr.
In addition to its historical monuments, there is a notable on-campus social scene.
Morehouse’s campus is not too large, so there are only two places where students tend to congregate on campus: in front of Chivers Hall, the cafeteria, and in front of Jazzman’s, the campus coffee shop. The area around Chivers is a good place to hang out between classes because it’s located in the Yard (the main part of campus where classes are held) and there are plenty of benches. Most people have to walk through the Yard to go anywhere on campus, so students get to see plenty of friends while walking to and from class.
The Yard is also the spot where students get together for Hump Wednesday events. Hump Wednesdays are usually sponsored by the Student Government Association or a Greek organization. There’s music and BBQ to enjoy, and vendors are invited onto campus to sell things like T-shirts, shades, and pictures. Other times they have games set up around campus like scavenger hunts or big glove boxing (of course they are meant to fun, but some guys turn the events into a real competition). Hump Wednesdays are a huge social scene where students get to see their friends, meet new ones, and just relax and regroup with their Atlanta University Center (which includes Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University) family to help get them through the rest of the week.
Jazzman’s, the school coffee shop, is where most people hang when they have a little more time to relax. You’ll always find plenty of business majors there because it’s close to the Leadership Center, where business classes are held. The Jazzman’s scene is similar to what you’d find at most coffee shops, with people lounging around on couches, finishing off that last bit of studying at tables, and brothers in suits reading The Wall Street Journal or New York Times (both papers are available for free on campus). Jazzman’s also hosts events like poetry jams and live music.
Morehouse College is located in the West End community of Atlanta, Georgia, a predominately African-American neighborhood approximately three miles from downtown. In the immediate vicinity, one can find shopping centers, video rental stores, and great places to eat or take out “down South soul food.” Morehouse College is also just a quick walk or shuttle ride to the MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transportation Authority) West End train station. With Atlanta at their disposal, Morehouse students eagerly take advantage of their surroundings.
While Morehouse students are blessed with the advantages of a large urban center, they also have to deal with the city’s drawbacks. One student from the class of ’08 reports that “there is still a huge problem with neighborhood crime.”
Morehouse requires each student to attend a number of Crown Forum events, often featuring speeches by notable African-American leaders, throughout their college career.
The college hosts annual events in celebration of the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Robert W. Woodruff Library is affectionately known as “Club Woody.”
Sanford Bishop (1968) is a member of the US House of Representatives representing Georgia.
Donn Clendenon (1956) was an MLB first baseman and MVP of the 1969 World Series for the New York Mets.
Samuel L. Jackson (1972) is an Academy Award-nominated actor best known for his role in the film Pulp Fiction.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1948) was an American civil rights activist and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Spike Lee (1979) is an Academy Award-nominated director, producer, writer, and actor. He also teaches film at NYU and Columbia.
The Morehouse College Maroon Tigers compete in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) as an NCAA Division II school. The college fields football, baseball, basketball, cross country, tennis, track and field, and golf teams. According to Jamari Douglas ’09, “like any campus, the most popular team at Morehouse is the football team.”
The Morehouse squad with the most consistent track record of success has been the swim team. From 1958-1976, the team took home 15 SIAC championships, compiling a record of 255 wins and 25 losses. The team was featured in magazines like Sports Illustrated, Jet, Ebony, and Black Sports. However, in 1976 the team’s funds were lost and the program folded.
From 2002-2004, Black Enterprise Magazine ranked Morehouse as the best school for African-American undergraduate education.
The Morehouse College Marching Band has performed at the Super Bowl (XVIII to be exact) and on The Today Show.
Samuel L. Jackson worked as a statistician for the swim team while he attended Morehouse.
The school graduated its first white student, Howard Zehr, in 1966.
The dorms at Morehouse, accommodating about half of the college’s students, don’t exactly offer luxury living. But they do a great job of providing students with a place to live while cultivating their social circles.
Graves Hall is a freshman dorm located on the highest point in Atlanta. When Morehouse College first moved to its current site in the West End of Atlanta, Graves Hall was the college’s only building, at the time housing the school cafeteria, gymnasium, dorm rooms, and president’s quarters. Graves is the oldest building on campus and has a reputation for being the most prestigious because it houses Honors students. Graves Hall is also known for its step team, which has competed in – and won – step competitions on BET.
Brazeal Hall is one of the newest dorms on campus. It has the largest rooms, as well as a reputation for being socially active. Brazeal hosts step shows, Halloween parties, BBQs, and other celebrations. Brazeal Hall is located next to Graves Hall, and the two dorms maintain a healthy rivalry.
The Morehouse Suites house upperclassmen and are the newest housing facilities on campus. They are popular because they have single rooms in suite arrangements. The Suites are also close to the library and the grocery store, so it’s easy to run out and grab a book or a snack. Residents also enjoy relaxed rules, as the visitation schedule isn’t enforced as strictly as in the freshman dorms.