Without Regard to Sex, Race, or Color: The Past, Present, and Future of One Historically Black College
by Andrew Feiler
Publication Date: Oct 01, 2015
List Price: $32.95 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: 112
Imprint: University of Georgia Press
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Parent Company: University of Georgia
“I was granted unique access to the hauntingly silent campus of Morris Brown with the intent to illuminate the stories told in its stilled classrooms and hallways. In the resulting body of work, the proud past remains in the extraordinary quality of the facilities, school desks arrayed ready for class, faces of students in photographs from happier days. The challenging present resides starkly in broken stained glass, evidence of havoc wreaked by scrappers, hints of homeless humanity. And the uncertain future weighs heavily in the headlines: bankruptcy proceedings, a forthcoming professional football stadium next door, recycled pronouncements of plans to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood. Mixed with all of these are layers of timeless emotion… wistfulness, pride, angst, loneliness, hope.
A book of this work has just been published by the University of Georgia Press in association with the Georgia Humanities Council. The publication includes ten historical images, sixty contemporary images and essays by Robert E. James, Pellom McDaniels III, Amalia K. Amaki, and Loretta Parham. An accompanying exhibition opens later this fall  in Atlanta. Opportunities are being sought for subsequent showings.”
This gathering of sixty images, along with the essays that frame them, gives us a new way to think about the too often troubled status of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The bell in the clock tower at Atlanta’s Morris Brown College bears an inscription about the ideal of educational access, that it be “without regard to sex, race, or color.” Yet most of the Morris Brown campus has lain silent for more than a decade. Established in 1881, it was all but shut down in 2002 after years of fiscal hardship were capped by a mismanagement scandal. Pride still runs high among its alumni, however, and its current leadership vows to revive the school. Meanwhile, as Andrew Feiler’s stirring photos show, Morris Brown is literally falling apart.
In the spirit of those photographers who have documented the physical decline of our valued institutions―from small family farms to entire cities―Feiler points his lens at one embattled place and dares us to look away. Aiming to “open minds, trigger emotion, stimulate discussion, and, perhaps, prompt action,” his images project a new layer of meaning onto the Morris Brown story. We see classrooms, dorms, gym facilities, and other spaces no longer alive with students, faculty, and staff but rather mired in a state of uncertainty where hopes of normality’s return mutely battle a host of unwelcome alternate futures. We see how time passes without regard for academic years, regular maintenance cycles, or the other comings and goings that would ordinarily call attention to the leaks, invading animals, acts of vandalism, and other forces working to peel the paint from Morris Brown’s walls, buckle its floors, and molder its furnishings. We see garbage piling up alongside sports trophies, scientific equipment, and other vestiges of the prouder past we would rather remember.
Feiler’s photos are accompanied by writings that address the college’s profound impact on one family, history and memory, the documentary and narrative powers of photography, and the place of HBCUs in American public life. Images and text combine powerfully to show us what happens when a place meant to be honored is left to its own.
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