Officials from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Morgan State University today announced the Maryland flagship historically black college as a ‘National Treasure,’ clearing the way for the historic campus to receive fundraising and help for capital projects and planning as a site of historic and architectural value.
In a press conference held in Carnegie Hall, the university’s oldest building which today is part of Morgan’s science and research complex, officials lauded the school as a defining institution of American history and advancement for people in a range of disciplines.
“The National Trust believes Historically Black Colleges and Universities tell an important and often overlooked American story,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We are proud to partner with Morgan State University– a nationally-recognized innovator and education leader– to demonstrate how the preservation of their remarkable older buildings can be a springboard for growth, rejuvenation, and revitalization.”
Morgan State President David Wilson cited the university’s pending 150th anniversary as ideal timing for the announcement, and for the continuing investment in Morgan as a state and national resource for teaching, learning and research.
“We have known of Morgan’s significance on the higher education stage for many years and now, as we prepare to celebrate our 150th anniversary, the world will know that, in fact, this university is a national treasure. We are very excited and honored by this designation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In many ways, it is recognition of the value we have placed on caring for and preserving the history of the great Morgan State University.”
The designation follows the February ‘Treasure’ status ceremony for Howard University’s Founders’ Library, which will make the two historically black colleges eligible for funding, legal advocacy and legislative lobbying to ensure the continuing preservation and integrity of facilities.
Leonard Simmons, a 1953 graduate who worked as part of a team which helped Morgan State’s University Chapel to earn a listing in the National Registry of Historic Places in 2010, says that the designation is the latest, and perhaps greatest, step for an institution which has weathered discrimination, movements for equity, and sought to establish its foothold as the state’s flagship historically black college.
“The ceremony was a singular occasion for me…I thought about the long road that Morgan has traveled since September 1949 when I arrived as what was a small, poorly resourced state college. The social environment and the number and condition of the buildings on the campus were very different from what now exists.”
Simmons reflected upon the student desegregation efforts in facilities in the adjoining Northwood community, and how that movement punctuated much of the inequity plainly visible on campus by way of inadequate learning and athletic facilities.
“Today, when I walk around Morgan’s campus and see the extensive physical changes that have occurred since I was a student, I barely recognize the place. I smile and think, “we have come a long way, and the best is yet to come!”
Morgan State is the first college, historically black or otherwise, to receive the designation, and joins notable African American landmarks such as the Madame C.J. Walker Estate in Irvington, NY, Joe Frazier’s Gymnasium in Philadelphia, the Malcolm X-Ella Collins House in Boston, and the Pauli Murray House in Durham, NC as prominent cities, structures and monuments in the National Treasures program.