Morgan State University turns 150

Baltimore’s Morgan State University is among the oldest historically black institutions in the nation. The school opened 150 years ago, just as slavery was coming to an end.

Morgan State University opened in 1867 in Baltimore as the Centenary Biblical Institute.

“We were founded by five former enslaved African-Americans who were all enslaved here in Maryland,” Morgan State professor Dale Green said.

Green, a historian, said the first students were seven men, who trained for ministry.

“It began originally in the basement of the Sharp Street Methodist Episcopal Church, which was located downtown at Pratt and Lombard streets,” Green said.

Morgan State was named after the Rev. Lyttleton Morgan, the first chairman of the school’s board of trustees.

“There was the founding board of trustees, who were all white males, who were all affiliated with the Baltimore conference, which was the white conference of the Methodist Church,” Green said.

Morgan moved from Saratoga and St. Paul streets to Edmonson and Fulton on land donated by the Rev. John Goucher, who also deeded land to start what is now Goucher College.

In 1917, Morgan College, as it was called back then, moved from west Baltimore to its current location just off Perring Parkway in east Baltimore. Over the past 100 years, Morgan has grown to more than 8,000 students.

“I’m really intrigued by the tenacity that the founders had to build a university and to build a place for colored men. It was primarily for colored men at the time,” student Marcus Bennett said.

Women joined the ranks of the Morgan student body in 1874, and just this past year, Morgan was named a national treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It’s one of two historically-black colleges in the nation to receive such an honor.