BNHA Morgan State University & Morgan Park

Interpretive Framework

Seeking Prosperity: Roots of Education/Civil Rights

Resource Type

Points of Interest

1700 East Cold Spring Lane

Baltimore, Maryland 21251

Founded in 1867 as the Centenary Biblical Institute by the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the institution's original mission was to train young men in ministry. It subsequently broadened its mission to educate both men and women as teachers. The school was renamed Morgan College in 1890 in honor of the Reverend Lyttleton Morgan, the first chairman of its Board of Trustees, who donated land to the college.

Morgan remained a private institution until 1939. That year, the State of Maryland purchased the school in response to a state study that determined that Maryland needed to provide more opportunities for its black citizens.  From its beginnings as a public campus, Morgan was open to students of all races.

Known as the “Black West Point,” Morgan State University has always had a proud tradition of producing top quality officers for the Total Army. More than 1,300 officers have graduated from the Bear Battalion. In 1979, Morgan State University produced its first General Officer, Brigadier General George M. Brooks. On 13 November 2001, General Larry R. Ellis received his fourth star and is now the fourth African American to reach the rank of General in the Army. He is the first from a Historically Black College or University. The Bear Battalion has produced 10 general officers.

The Morgan State University Memorial Chapel is an irregular-shaped one-story masonry building constructed in 1941 at the southwest corner of Morgan State University’s academic quad and main campus in northeast Baltimore City. Designed by the prominent African American architect Albert I. Cassell, the building embodies a modern interpretation of the Collegiate Gothic style. It was intended to serve as both a worship space and as a social center for students. The Morgan State University Memorial Chapel is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as the work of nationally recognized African American architect, Albert Irvin Cassell FAIA (1985-1969). Records of the American Institute of Architects indicate that Cassell was the eighth registered African American architect in the nation. In addition to several projects on Morgan’s campus, Cassell is noted for having designed buildings for several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). He was also responsible for planning complete community projects in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia.

Morgan Park

Morgan Park lies adjacent to Morgan State University and is surrounded by several Baltimore City parks (Mt. Pleasant Golf Course and Ice Rink, Chinquapin Run, Herring Run and Lake Montebello). In 1917, Morgan College purchased 70 acres of land from the Ivy Mill estate as part of its relocation from West Baltimore thanks to funding from Andrew Carnegie. A small section of those 70 acres was set aside for faculty and administrator housing. Designed and built by African Americans who were unable to purchase housing in Baltimore’s widely known segregated neighborhoods, the area of bungalows and four squares became known as Morgan Park. Barred from living in various communities during the Jim Crow era, Morgan Park represented the opportunity for African Americans to achieve the American Dream in Baltimore. Over 145 houses of various architectural styles were built and owned by African Americans in Morgan Park. Its residents once included W.E.B. DuBois, Eubie Blake, Cab Calloway, and the Murphy Family (President of Morgan College). The neighborhood is in the process of applying for Historic Preservation status and holds at least one City Landmark for the home of W.E.B. DuBois. 

In 1918, residents of Lauraville were incensed that the nearby Ivy Mill property, where Morgan State University would eventually be built, had been sold to a "negro college." They attempted to have the sale revoked by filing suit in the circuit court in Towson, which dismissed the suit. They then appealed the case to the state Court of Appeals. Morgan State was allowed to be constructed at this site and would later expand. 

Morgan Park is an architecturally significant resource that is historically important. Home to African American leaders in the civil rights movement, cultural icons, and faculty from Maryland’s leading historically black college and university, at its inception Morgan Park found itself embroiled in an existential legal battle with the neighboring white community of Lauraville. The resolution of the conflict through the courts provided African Americans a legal victory and set a precedent for other court cases as well.