Morris Brown College to receive $2.9 million federal grant to 'kickstart this renaissance'

Morris Brown College in Atlanta will receive the largest grant the historically Black college has received in 20 years, President Kevin James said on Jan. 17. (AP/David Goldman)

Atlanta’s Morris Brown College will receive $2.9 million in federal funds for academic programs and building restoration. The grant is the largest the historically Black college has received in 20 years, President Kevin James said at a press conference Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) appeared with James for the announcement. Ossoff said he and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) worked to secure the money.

“We are delivering $2.9 million to help kickstart this renaissance that’s ongoing at this institution,” Ossoff said.

The senator indicated he was following through on a campaign promise he made to James more than two years ago.

“I want to pledge to you, Mr. President, that as Georgia’s United States Senator, I’ll be at your fingertips,” Ossoff said at the time. “I’ll work tirelessly to deliver the resources that this institution needs — not just to get back to where it has been but to reach higher and higher heights.”

James said Ossoff has lived up to that pledge.

“He is a phone call away,” James said Tuesday. “He actually personally called me [when] I was in the barbershop…and I stepped out and he said, ‘I got some money for you. $2.9 million.’”  

Most of the money will go toward academic programs, including a center for teaching and learning. About $500,000 is earmarked for the restoration of Fountain Hall, James said.

“Fountain Hall is a historical landmark here at Morris Brown College built back in 1881 by former slaves,” he said. “Dr. W.E.B. DuBois’ office was on the third floor of that building, so we absolutely need Fountain Hall to be restored.”

The college estimates the restoration will cost $30 million. Dr. R. Candy Tate has helped organize fundraising efforts to restore Fountain Hall.

“My personal goal is to make sure it’s up and running in time for the World Cup…[in] 2026,” Tate says.

Morris Brown recently regained accreditation after losing it for two decades. During that time, the school wasn’t eligible to receive federal financial aid. Student enrollment dropped to about 20 students by the time James came to the institution in 2019.