Morehouse Makes Historic Pilgrimage to Augusta

Date Released: February 16, 2017

Every five years in February, members from the Morehouse College community make the pilgrimage to Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta. It was in this church’s basement where William Jefferson White founded the college on Feb. 14, 1867 with the vision to educate and empower young African-American men. Just years after the Civil War and slavery ended. 

On Sunday, Feb. 12, Morehouse President Dr. John S. Wilson ’79, stood at the same basement door 37 young men walked through 150 years ago to learn and imagine a better world. He tried to open the door, but it had been nailed shut.

Morehouse alum Rev. Vernon Jones ’83 noted the symbolism of the closed door.

“What we found in every Morehouse Man is that we don’t stop at every nailed door,” Jones said as he brought greetings to Springfield Baptist on behalf of the Augusta Alumni Chapter of Morehouse College.

Neither a closed door nor fear could stop White or the generations of Morehouse Men who followed.

“If you have a spirit of fear, you wouldn’t go near what happened here in 1867,” said Wilson.

What happened was a courageous conversation that took place inside the church. White and church leaders knew that literacy was the direct path between slavery and freedom.

“Slave owners knew if slaves knew how to read the Bible, they would be unfit to ever be slaves again,” said Rev. Dr. Lawrence Carter Sr., Dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel.

“We thank you Springfield, because of Morehouse Men, the world is a better place,” said Wilson during his sermon. He then proceeded to list the multitude of world-changers the college has produced in its 150 years. “If I thank you for nothing else, I thank you for the courage that is still swirling at Morehouse College.”

“If Morehouse is going to live another 150 years, we need to make sure we don’t have a spirit of fear,” the president said to the congregation, which included alumni, supporters and White’s great-great-granddaughter Bonnie Blocker.

After the president’s sermon and selections from the Morehouse Glee Club, the Wilson and Carter presented Rev. Hardy Bennings III, pastor of Springfield, with a large oil painting in a glossy wood frame. The artwork depicted Morehouse’s roots in Augusta, featuring all three of churches fundamental in the early development of the college. A bridge with photos of the founder and collegiate presidents spanned a river connecting to Graves Hall, the city of Atlanta, and the future. Copies of the painting were also presented to Harmony Baptist and Tabernacle Baptist Churches.

Immediately after service, Springfield Baptist Church hosted a luncheon for the visitors inside the original church building. The structure that was in use when Morehouse was founded. Once inside, students were able to view historical documents and images and tour the old building where young men, much like themselves, once gathered.

After lunch, the group from Morehouse boarded buses and headed to Cedar Grove Cemetery to pay honor to the founder White.

Students solemnly entered the cemetery and made their way to the location where William Jefferson White and his wife Josephine are buried.

The current leader of Morehouse laid a wreath beside the founder’s headstone before linking arms with the crowd to sing Dear Old Morehouse.


Last Modified: June 8, 2017, 13:06 PM, by: Synera Shelton

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