Don’t call it a comeback. It’s more of a rebirth. Morris Brown College, the only college in the state of Georgia created by and for African Americans, opened its doors in 1881 and, contrary to what most believe, the Christian-based institution has never closed them.
For almost 20 years, the school has faced numerous financial hardships that resulted in losing its accreditation, making it impossible for students to obtain government funding for their education. This forced potential students to go elsewhere, since the majority of students can’t pay out-of-pocket. To date, the school remains open, with three full-time faculty, more than 20 volunteer faculty, 35 students, and three degree offerings.
Dr. Kevin James, the interim president, has big plans for the HBCU and is requesting all hands on deck to achieve his vision. His goal to raise $10 million is no easy feat, but the former college dean feels that it’s not too much to ask from an educational system that needs the presence of historically black colleges and universities now more than ever.
“During my interview, I had a presentation and said, ‘If you hire me, this is what I’ll do,’” shares Dr. James.
He already had a plan, and when he landed the job, he hit the ground running. On the job since March 1, 2019, the South Carolina State University alum narrowly escaped the words of naysayers and non-believers early on. The stamp of approval he received from just one mentor catapulted his confidence and encouraged him to forge on.
“She told me that what I was attempting has never been done before, but if anyone could do it, I could,” he explains. “My idea is to build people’s trust, then get out in the community and be visible, so they can see the administration is moving in the right direction,” says Dr. James.
He wants major corporations and independent donors to understand that Morris Brown College is a quality institution that deserves another chance to reestablish itself as the distinguished school it once was. The likes of civil rights icon Rev. Hosea Williams and DeKalb County’s first woman sheriff, Melody Maddox, have walked the historic halls and hiked across the now bare campus. There are certainly more high achievers that deserve to be a part of the wolverine family and create their own legacies there.
Dr. James continues to call on all alumni, famous or not, to help in the mission. Since Morris Brown College is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, it qualifies for matching gifts from donors’ employers. No amount is too small. Fundraisers and outside facility rentals also add up. In addition to local donations, Dr. James is praying for larger gifts in the millions. He hopes to attract the attention of Fortune 500 companies like The Home Depot Corporation, Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and Delta Airlines, as well as celebrities like Bill Gates, Tom Joyner, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith, who recently gifted Morehouse College grads over $34 million.
Located in the heart of Atlanta, the new mecca of the film and television industry, Morris Brown College welcomes movie studios to rent the campus for film productions as well. Anyone willing to help this institution be restored to its greatness is a valuable asset.
To aid in this daunting process, Dr. James is looking for volunteer grant writers, a public relations specialist and other pertinent roles that could assist in raising capital to move the school closer to applying for and receiving accreditation from TRACS (Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools) this fall.
Even though Dr. James has been a part of the Morris Brown College family for a short time, he’s proven his dedication to keeping it alive.
“This has never been done before, but I’m going to get it done,” he declares.