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An Interview with Morris Brown College President, Dr. Kevin James

To God and Truth: The Life and Legacy of Bishop Wesley John Gaines is the latest documentary production from Historic Oakland Foundation, in partnership with Morris Brown College. To celebrate the release of the film, we are sharing content and resources about Morris Brown College, Black history in Atlanta, and the impressive legacy of Oakland resident Bishop Wesley John Gaines.

Introduce yourself. Why is this a pivotal moment in Morris Brown University’s history? What qualities and/or motivations for success do you bring to the institution?

I am honored to serve as the 19th President of Morris Brown College, a historically Black college located in Atlanta, Georgia founded in 1881 by Bishop Wesley John Gaines and the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In my role, I lead as the Chief Executive Officer and I am responsible for the leadership and management of all aspects of college operations. Additionally, I am responsible for the development and execution of the vision and strategic direction for the college, in concert with the Board of Trustees.

In my 22-year career as a higher education administrator, faculty member, executive business leader, and motivational speaker, I am committed to improving my community through education and empowerment. I have served in various progressive executive-level roles in higher education and the non-profit sector.

Prior to my post as President, I served as Interim CEO of the 100 Black Men of America, Inc., internationally headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The mission of 100 Black Men of America is to improve the quality of life and enhance educational and economic opportunities for all African Americans.

This year I was honored to be named College President of the Year by the Georgia Greater Black Chamber of Commerce, and one of Atlanta’s Most Powerful Leaders by Atlanta Magazine in 2021. Additionally, I received the 4 Brighter Futures Foundation, Inc. Chairman Award, was named a Georgia Leadership Character Awards nominee, Mentor of the Year for 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc., and Morris Brown College was named Top 10 Smaller HBCU that is Rising #4 by the HBCU Campaign Fund.

I am honored to have been selected by the board to serve at the helm of Georgia’s only HBCU founded by black people; being named president allows me to strategize future growth and direction from a longstanding viewpoint. I look forward to continuing this great work in collaboration with the board of trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other shareholders to resurrect this historic college back to prominence. My passion for education and drive for developing the country’s future leaders motivates me. We will continue working to obtain accreditation, ensure financial stability, build a strong relationship with alumni, and grow enrollment through The Hard Reset.

What is your vision for the legacy of Morris Brown? What are the cornerstones of your leadership?

My vision for Morris Brown College is to become a high-performing undergraduate degree-granting institution of higher education committed to excellence in academic programs and professional education. I want to ensure that MBC prepares its graduates to lead purposeful and fulfilling lives by providing a high-quality education through experiential, collaborative, and discovery-based learning in a nurturing environment. Students will feel safe and appreciated and be prepared to lead.

The cornerstones of my leadership style are servant leadership, love for people and wanting them to be their best selves. Through strategy and a genuine concern for my faculty, staff, and students, we have been able to make history by resurrecting Morris Brown College.

How do the life of Bishop Gaines and the resurrection of Morris Brown College reflect the story of Black Atlanta?

Atlanta is a historic city. The city too busy to hate, the birth of the Civil Rights movement, and home to the world’s largest consortium of black colleges. Morris Brown was and is the heart of the AUC Center, and its rebirth is important to many. This restoration is bigger than me, it’s God’s work. As Georgia’s first and only HBCU founded by African Americans, what this college means to our ancestors cannot be forgotten. That is why the resurrection of this institution is critically important. Atlanta has become the best example of the New South, a fast-paced modern city proud of its heritage, and Morris Brown’s presence makes the city, the state, and the region a bit stronger with our restoration. Bishop Wesley John Gaines would be proud of our resilience over these past twenty years. We never gave up and are here to stay.

How would Bishop Gaines regard the current transformative state of Morris Brown College and more broadly, the position of Black people in American society?

HBCUs are synonymous with the words ACCESS and OPPORTUNITY. HBCUs’ first mission has always been access; to increase college success and career access for Black youth. Gaines would be proud that Morris Brown never gave up when others would have. He would be proud of the newly restored MBC which will become one of the top HBCUs in this country. HBCUs have always been a diverse and inclusive community of scholarship that celebrates the Black experience. We intend to continue our work of being a Haven for Hungry Souls by providing a quality education to all who desire, and, as our Alma Mater says, “And Feeding Them (our students) Shall be our Goal.”


Watch a trailer for To God and Truth: The Life and Legacy of Bishop Wesley John Gaines:

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