In 1867, the Methodist Episcopal Church opened the Centenary Biblical Institute to train young men in ministry. In 1890, after broadening its mission to educate black men and women as teachers, the school was renamed Morgan College after the first chairman of its Board of Trustees and land donor, Reverend Lyttleton Morgan.
After a few decades, President John Oakley Spencer realized the college was outgrowing its space at Fulton and Edmondson Avenues and activated plans to move and expand. After learning of Andrew Carnegie’s speech in support of black education, the college contacted the philanthropist for financial assistance.
Carnegie agreed to provide $50,000 to the college for a new site only if the board met certain terms, including raising matching funds. The board pledged $25,000 and the public contributed the difference, with much-needed pleas for assistance from the Afro-American newspaper for this “praiseworthy object.”
After being prohibited from relocating to Mount Washington, a white Baltimore suburb, a parcel of land in northeast Baltimore became the best option. Fifty community members filed lawsuits against the move, including poet Edgar Allan Poe’s grandnephew and namesake. All attempts failed and Harry O. Wilson, Baltimore’s leading black banker, purchased the land for the college that became known as Wilson Park.
The college met all of Carnegie’s conditions and in 1917 moved to its present location. In 1939, the state of Maryland purchased the school after a study determined that Maryland needed to provide more opportunities for its black residents. [Image: Morgan State College basketball team, 1951, Maryland Historical Society, HEN.03.02-064; Class inside gym, Morgan State College, 1955, Maryland Historical Society, HEN.06.04-015.]
The photographs below are only a small fraction of the additional photographs of Morgan State College by Paul Henderson: