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Morris Brown College
Established 1881
Type Private, HBCU[1]
Religious affiliation African Methodist Episcopal Church[2]
Location Atlanta, Georgia,
United States[2]
Campus 21-acre (84,984.0 m2), Urban[2]
Sports Discontinued 2003
Colors Purple and Black
Mascot Wolverines and Lady Wolverines
Morris Brown athletics logo

Morris Brown College (MBC) is a four-year, private, coed, liberal arts college located in the Vine City community of Atlanta, Georgia, United States. It is a historically black college, affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Morris Brown College was a member of the Atlanta University Center until it lost its accreditation and federal funding in 2002 because of a financial mismanagement scandal during the 1998–2002 tenure of Dr. Dolores E. Cross as school president. The United Negro College Fund also terminated its support for Morris Brown College.[3]


Academics and Demographics

Morris Brown currently offers baccalaureate degrees in Management, Entrepreneurship and Technology (for traditional students) and Organizational Management and Leadership (for Adult Degree matriculants).[2]


Accreditation Issue

Morris Brown was more than $23 million in debt and was on probation in 2001 with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for shoddy bookkeeping and a shortage of professors with advanced degrees. On December 10, 2002, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked Morris Brown's accreditation.

College officials have said the school plans to re-apply for accreditation, a lengthy process that would require the college to be debt-free. Until the school is reaccredited, its students cannot receive federal or state financial aid.


Morris Brown's History at a glance
1881 Established
2002 Accreditation revoked by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools


Morris Brown College was founded by former slaves affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The initiative to establish the college began with a resolution passed by the North Georgia Annual Conference of the AME Church on January 5, 1881, calling for the establishment in Atlanta of an institution for the moral, spiritual, and intellectual growth of Negro boys and girls. The school formally opened its doors on October 15, 1885, with 107 students and nine teachers. Morris Brown was the first educational institution in Georgia under sole African-American patronage.[4] For more than a century, the college enrolled many students from poor backgrounds, large numbers of whom returned to their hometowns as teachers.

Fountain Hall, originally known as Stone Hall when it was part of Atlanta University, was completed in 1882 and is closely associated with the history of the college. It is listed as a National Historic Landmark and was renamed Fountain Hall when Atlanta University consolidated its facilities and Morris Brown College leased the building.[5]

Criminal scandal

Eighty percent of the school's 2,500 students received financial aid from the federal government, which gave Morris Brown $8 million a year. A federal criminal case against the former president, Dolores Cross, and financial aid director, Mr. Parvesh Singh, proved the pair had embezzled a great deal of that federal aid and diverted it to ineligible college costs, such as personal staff, instead of subsidizing the students whose names were used to obtain the funds.

In 2002, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked the college's accreditation because of its financial problems.

Cross and Singh were charged in December 2004 in a 34-count indictment that accused them of defrauding the school, the U.S. Department of Education, and hundreds of students. The pair, who had first worked together at a college in Chicago, Illinois, were convicted of using the names of hundreds of students, ex-students, and people who were never enrolled to obtain financial aid for the school.[6]

During the time Cross held the college presidency, from November 1998 through February 2002, Singh obtained about 1,800 payments from federally insured loans and Pell grants for these students, who had no idea they would be responsible for paying off the loans, the indictment said.[7]

At the time of the 2004 indictment, Cross was teaching at DePaul University in Chicago.[8] On May 1, 2006, Cross pleaded guilty to fraud by embezzling millions of dollars in federal funds from the government and students.[9] She agreed to pay $11,000 to the Department of Education in restitution. Singh also pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement.

Morris Brown College’s Herndon Stadium was the site of the field hockey competitions during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The stadium is designed to seat 15,000 spectators.[2]

On January 3, 2007, Cross received five years of probation and one year of home confinement for the fraud. Cross, 70 years old, suffers from sleep apnea and has had a series of small strokes, factors the judge took into consideration when devising the sentence. Singh, 64, also received five years of probation but 18 months of home confinement. An additional factor the judge considered was that the embezzled funds were not used for personal profit, but to prop up the school's poor finances.[6] However, the initial indictment said Cross had used the funds to finance personal trips for herself, her family, and friends.[10]

The prosecutor, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, made a somewhat exculpatory statement at their sentencing: "When the defendants arrived at Morris Brown, the college was already in serious financial condition. Thereafter, these defendants misappropriated ... money in fairly complicated ways in what appears to have been a misguided and ultimately criminal attempt to keep Morris Brown afloat."[3]

Uncertain future

The school has $22 million in long-term debt and $5 million in short term debt. Both the alumni association and the African Methodist Episcopal Church have pledged to keep the school from closing. As of January 2009, Morris Brown has 240 students.[11]

Morris Brown College, at one point reduced to an enrollment of just 44 students, continues to operate as a scaled-down version of its former self.[12] In 2004, Dr. Samuel D. Jolley, who had been the school's president from 1993 to 1997, agreed to return to the presidency to help the college's attempts to recover.

"Morris Brown", a song by Atlanta hip-hop duo OutKast off their 2006 release Idlewild, features a performance from the Morris Brown College Marching Wolverines.

The school hoped to have 107 students in the fall of 2006, the same number when the school opened in 1881, but failed to meet even this modest goal.[citation needed] Tuition in the Fall semester of 2006 was $3,500, but without accreditation, students cannot obtain federal or state financial aid for their tuition and other school expenses.

By February 2007, MBC had only 54 students in two degree programs, supported by 7 faculty and staff employees.[13] Despite this, after the sentencing of two former administrators, the chair of the college's board of trustees, Bishop William Phillips DeVeaux, issued a press release stating the college would move forward and that "This sad chapter in the college's history is now closed."[3]

In addition to civil lawsuits filed by former and current students, Morris Brown faces a civil suit for defaulting on a $13 million property bond, a case that eventually could lead to foreclosure on some of the college's most historic buildings, including its administration building, attorneys involved in the case say. The complaint asks for $10.7 million in principal owed on the loan agreement, $1.5 million in interest and a per diem of $2,100 for each day Morris Brown does not pay. In December 2008, the City of Atlanta disconnected water service to the college because of an overdue water bill.[14] The debt has since been paid and the service restored.

The 2002 film Drumline and the 2007 film Stomp the Yard were partly filmed on the campus of Morris Brown. In 2006 Warner Brothers filmed "We Are Marshall" in the football stadium.

Radio personality Tom Joyner made several offers to buy the troubled college from 2002 through 2004, during the worst of the accreditation and fraud crises. In 2003, his charitable foundation gave the school $1 million to assist with its immediate needs.[8]

Notable alumni

This is a list of notable alumni which includes graduates, non-graduate former students, and current students of Morris Brown College.

Name Class year Notability Reference
Hosea Williams civil rights activist [15]
James Alan McPherson Pulitzer Prize-winning author [15]
Isaac Blythers president of Atlanta Gas Light Company [15]
Eula Adams executive vice president for First Data Corporation [15]
Albert J. Edmonds Retired Lt. Gen. of the United States Air Force [15]
Ezra Johnson NFL player [16]
Thomas Byrd television, film and stage actor [15]
Tommy Hart Defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers [15]


  1. ^ "List of HBCUs -- White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities". 2007-08-16. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Visitor". Morris Brown College. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  3. ^ a b c "Ex-president of Morris Brown gets probation". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 2007-01-04. Retrieved 2007-01-04. 
  4. ^ "Morris Brown College founded". The African American Registry website. 
  5. ^ "Stone Hall, Atlanta University". National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-02-26. 
  6. ^ a b "Former college president gets probation for $3.4M embezzlement". Associated Press. 2007-01-03. Retrieved 2007-01-04. 
  7. ^ "Federal Indictment Accuses Former Morris Brown President and Aid Officer of $5-Million Fraud"". Chronicle of Higher Education. 2004-12-10. Retrieved 2007-01-04. 
  8. ^ a b "Former Morris Brown College president, financial aid director indicted for fraud". Black Issues in Higher Education. 2004-12-30. Retrieved 2007-01-04. 
  9. ^ "Morris Brown College". Washington Post. 2006-05-01. 
  10. ^ "Ex-President of Morris Brown College Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2006-05-01. Retrieved 2007-01-04. 
  11. ^ Shelton, Stacy (2009-01-03). "Water flowing again at Morris Brown". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  12. ^ Incomplete citation for May 2006 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  13. ^ Jones, Andrea (2007-02-24). "Morris Brown Marks 126 Years". Metro News, 1B. (Atlanta Journal Constitution). 
  14. ^ "Water Shut Off At Historic Atlanta College For Unpaid Bill". WSB-TV. December 21, 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2009. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g "College Information". Morris Brown College. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  16. ^ "Ezra Johnson Statistics". 

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