by Benjamin McKnight III, Editor-In-Chief
With less than a year until Morgan State University celebrates its sesquicentennial, the National Trust for Historic Preservation declared the univesity a national treasure.
The National Trust, chartered by congress in 1949, is a nonprofit organization that works to preserve historic buildings and landmarks across the nation. In 1998, the organization listed all HBCUs in America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list, and fought to get funding for the preservation of these institutions which resulted in them receiving $61 million to restore historic buildings at HBCUs.
“The National Trust has been trying to highlight the incredible history that our HBCUs tell and embody for several years,” said Stephanie Meeks, the president of the organization. “We have been alarmed that that story is not fully appreciated and told.”
Originally, Morgan State opened in 1867 as Centenary Biblical Institute. In 1890, it was renamed Morgan College after Reverend Lyttleton Morgan, the first on the school’s Board of Trustees according to MSU’s website. In 1975, the school became Morgan State University.
During campus president David Wilson’s speech at the commemorative event, he mentioned the origins of the effort when he attempted to have the porch on the University Chapel done, but was urged not to by members of the administration.
“Even though it took us an additional eight or nine months to eventually do what should have been done to make sure the memorial chapel was preserved in a way that it should, I think all of you here today would agree it was the right thing to do,” said Wilson.
Morgan State is the second HBCU to work with the National Trust, the first being Howard University. However, Morgan State is the only one of the two in which the entire campus is now a national treasure, whereas Founder’s Library is the only building with the honor on Howard’s campus.
With this effort, the National Trust hopes to continue to add more HBCUs to their list of national treasures.
“We are considering several HBCUs, but there is a process to be considered a national treasure,” said Brent Leggs, who works in the Washington field office for the National Trust. “So we would encourage HBCUs to submit a national treasure nomination for consideration.”