A wall built next to Morgan State University to separate Black students from adjacent white neighborhoods in Baltimore has been torn down after more than 80 years.
“We had no choice but to tear it down,” Morgan State President David 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.”
NBC News reports that taking down the wall is part of a major reconstruction and expansion at the historically Black university.
The so-called "spite wall" was built along Hillen Road in front of the university's entrance in the early 1940s after years of debate and opposition. The state of Maryland's decision to change what was then Morgan College from a private institution into a public one in 1939 to help Black people exacerbated racial strife in the city, Wilson said.
College trustees called plans for the wall “discriminatory to Morgan College,” but Morris Macht, part of one of Maryland’s largest residential building companies at the time, denied that it had anything to do with race. Ultimately, a zoning board approved the wall, and construction began in 1942.
“For the white community, this spite wall was to send a signal and to physically create a divider that would symbolize the segregation that they stood for,” said Dale Green, a professor and architectural historian at Morgan State. “They were not supportive of the integration of African Americans into the greater society. The wall was to fortify the whites from the Blacks.”
The barrier remained for decades, even as Morgan State students fought for civil rights in the 1960s, staging one of the nation’s first anti-segregation sit-ins at the Northwood Shopping Center across the street from the campus.
Wilson said the university doesn’t plan to ignore the past now that the wall is gone. Instead, he said, officials plan to keep a small part of the wall in place as a historical marker where students can learn about its dark history.