Morris Brown College was founded in 1881 and is part of what is known as the Atlanta University Center. Since losing its accreditation due to poor management in 2002 the school has struggled to stay open. At one point it had an enrollment of over 2K students, today its student body is only around 40.
The campus of Morris Brown College sits on the highest point in the city of Atlanta. During the Civil War, the famed Union General Sherman parked his artillery at this location and bombarded Atlanta before he ordered the city burned. The property is worth millions and since its existence there have been many entities who desired the land, including the city of Atlanta. When the school declared bankruptcy, the city, under the direction of Mayor Kasim Reed, purchased 13 acres of the campus for $14.6 million. However, the purchase violated a 1940 agreement in which Clark College, now Clark Atlanta University, had with Morris Brown that if the land was not used for educational purposes it would revert back to the possession of CAU, the original owner of the land. Clark Atlanta University wants the land back to expand its ever-growing campus but apparently, Mayor Reed is not in favor of supporting this well-known historically Black college. Instead, Reed is in favor of other opportunities for the land that apparently includes building a movie studio.
In a recent interview with Atlanta news station CBS46, Reed stated, “Had Atlanta not did what we did and bought the campus, then it probably would have gone to a discount buyer and it would probably be a swap meet of some kind, full of liquor stores and low-margin businesses. … There are a number of folks who have approached us about turning that into a major motion picture studio. … That’s one of the ideas that has been discussed certainly in the last six months.”
On Oct. 2, 2017, the Georgia Court of Appeals, upheld CAU’s claim on the land dealing a devastating blow to the city’s plan for the property. Reed has vowed that the city will appeal the court’s decision and said: “I’d really like to resolve the dispute with Clark Atlanta in a friendly way, but the city of Atlanta made a huge investment.”
At the time of the sale of the property to the city of Atlanta in June 2014, CAU did challenge the right of ownership to the property. Despite knowing that the land belonged to CAU, the city went through with the purchase. Reed’s wording of resolving the matter in a friendly way is troubling because it seems to be a veiled threat. The city does have the power to take the property under the law of eminent domain.