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In 1867, two years after the Civil War ended, Augusta Theological Institute was established in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia. Founded in 1787, Springfield Baptist is the oldest independent African American church in the United States. The school’s primary purpose was to prepare black men for ministry and teaching. Today, Augusta Theological Institute is Morehouse College, which is located on a 66-acre campus in Atlanta and enjoys an international reputation for producing leaders who have influenced national and world history.
Augusta Theological Institute was founded by The Rev. William Jefferson White, an Augusta Baptist minister, cabinetmaker and journalist, with the encouragement of The Rev. Richard C. Coulter, a former slave from Augusta, Georgia, and The Rev. Edmund Turney, organizer of the National Theological Institute for educating freedmen in Washington, D.C. From 1867 to 1871, White appointed five ministers to serve as Augusta Institute principals: James W. Parker, J. Mason Rice, Charles Henry Corey, Lucian Hayden and W.D. Siegfried. White appointed The Rev. Dr. Joseph T. Robert, a trained minister and physician and the father of the author of Robert’s Rules of Order, the Institute’s first president.
In 1879, Augusta Theological Institute was invited by The Rev. Frank Quarles to move to the basement of Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta and changed its name to Atlanta Baptist Seminary. Later, the seminary moved to a four-acre lot near the site on which the Richard B. Russell Federal Building now stands in downtown Atlanta. Following Robert’s death in 1884, David Foster Estes, a professor at the Seminary, served as the institution’s first acting president.
In 1885, when Dr. Samuel T. Graves was named the second president, the institution relocated to its current site in Atlanta’s West End community. The campus encompasses a Civil War historic site, a gift of John D. Rockefeller, where Confederate soldiers staged a determined resistance to Union forces during William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous siege of Atlanta in 1864. In 1897, Atlanta Baptist Seminary became Atlanta Baptist College during the administration of Dr. George Sale, a Canadian who served as the third and youngest president from 1890 to 1906.