On April 11, 2023, Morgan State demolished an 80-year-old red brick “spite wall” on its campus. But this wasn’t just any regular wall. This slab of bricks was built by the community to separate the campus from the city.
Over 80 years ago, white residents constructed this physical barrier to prevent Black students from attending what was formerly known as Morgan State College from accessing the neighboring white community and shopping center situated directly across the street.
In an article from NBC News, White Baltimore residents united to build the wall as a response to the increasing population of Black individuals who attended the HBCU. In the midst of it all the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper documented the debate through a series of articles: College trustees called plans for the wall “discriminatory to Morgan College.” In the end, a 1942 zoning board approval gave the green to begin the building of the segregation wall.
Professor and architectural historian at Morgan State Dale Green told reporters the wall was a signal and physical representation of segregation. “They [the white community] were not supportive of the integration of African Americans into the greater society. The wall was to fortify the whites from the Blacks.
Despite the wall, students continued to stand and fight for civil rights in the 1960s. In 1955 Morgan State students held the first anti-segregation sit-ins at Read’s Drugstore in Northwood Shopping Center, which is right across the wall.
University President David Wilson said it was a no-brainer to decide to destroy the wall. “We had no choice but to tear it down,” Wilson said. “We couldn’t have this symbol of hate staring down every single day. This was an easy decision for us. It was time for us to tear down that hate.”
Wilson continues to express how he wanted this moment to resonate with the current students; understanding that the spite wall represented both a dark and bright part of history. “Our students will understand they come from a long line of students who said, ‘No, we are not going to become second class to anybody.”
Photo Courtesy of Paul Newson/The Baltimore Banner
Despite the disappearance of the wall, Morgan State aims to preserve its history. Wilson says a portion of the wall will be preserved as a historical landmark for students and others to educate themselves about this dark moment in Baltimore’s history.