MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (May 25, 2016) -- The East Tennessee Preservation Alliance celebrated May as National Preservation Month by issuing a “This Place Matters” special focus on Morristown College.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “This Place Matters” campaign encourages people to celebrate the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities.
Morristown College, which has been included on the East Tennessee Endangered Heritage list since 2010, was selected for a special focus this year because the organization felt it was important for everyone to remember why “this place matters” to regional heritage.
Located atop a hill just northeast of downtown Morristown lies what is left of a once vibrant campus.
The 52-acre site is still recognized as a National Register District by the state of Tennessee and the National Park Service. However, the past few years have not been kind.
Morristown College was one of only two educational institutions that African Americans could attend before the civil rights movement.
It became a place of education for African Americans through the post-Civil War, Great Depression, Jim Crow, and post-Civil Rights eras. More than 15,000 graduates count the college as their alma mater.
Founded in 1881, the school received much outside support from northern states and freedman’s relief organizations.
Early on, Judson Hill was appointed president, serving in that position until his death in 1931.
Hill, a Methodist minister from New Jersey, was described as “a symbol of interracial harmony, a good-will ambassador who kept the school financially solvent.” Hill raised funds from a variety of sources, including prominent philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie and the Kelloggs of Battle Creek, Michigan.
Morristown College enjoyed solid growth through the early 20th century. Graduates could be found working in several countries. Nearly half of the black ministers at the Eastern Tennessee Methodist Conference had been students at Morristown College. In 1914, the school started a program recruiting men from Africa—becoming much more international and culturally diverse.