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Morristown Normal and Industrial College

Morristown, TN



Morristown College is one of the black schools profiled in the 1910 book An Era of Progress and Promise and in Jay S. Stowell’s Methodist Adverntures in Higher has recently placed digital copies of two Morristown yearbooks online.  

Morristown College reportedly had the best print shop between Knoxville and Bristol.  (Era of Progress and Promise, North Carolina Digital Collections.<>) accessed 1-25-2017



In 1869 Almyra H. Stearns came to East Tennessee from New Jersey to open a grammar school for Negro children.  In 1881 the Freedman’s Aid Society expanded her school, opening Morristown Seminary and Normal College.  In this venture they received the support of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  The purpose of the new school was to train ministers and teachers for the black population of the region.


Soon the school had three departments—College prep, normal, and industrial.  The industrial branch turned out iron workers and carpenters, whose work and products were highly esteemed throughout the region.  Era of Progress and Promise reported that the school had the best printing office beetween Knoxville and Bristol.


Under the leadership of President Judson S. Hill, Morristown achieved an enrollment of 300 students; his fundraising among both Negroes and white industrialists led to a building boom and the acquisition of a 300-acre dairy farm.


By the 1960’s enrollment began to fall off as black students were able to attend previously all-white state colleges.  The 1963 Red Knight shows that the two-year college had an enrollment of just over 200.  

The Methodist orientation of the school was seen in the activities of Religious Emphasis Week.  While the choir was one of the major co-curricular activities, the school also had chapters of Delta Psi Omega and the Thespian society as well as a modern dance troop.  Students had a number of academic clubs as well as organizations such as the Noblemen.


Despite claims in the 1976 Reflections of the strong presence of students from 22 states and foreign countries, the bulk of students continued to come from Tennessee, Florida, and North Carolina with students from New York and New Jersey arriving in numbers.  Sophomore students claimed more than 20 majors with business administration, special education, physical education, theology, and psychology leading the list.


In 1980 Morristown became an adjunct campus for nearby Knoxville College.  But that role too came to an end,  and Morristown was forced to close in 1994.

Bricks and Mortar

The original building of Morristown N&I had been a slave market a Morristown teacher had earlier been sold.   At its peak the Morristown campus had 12 buildings and 365 acres.  Bricks for the buildings were made by students in the school’s kilns.

The Google map shows that the campus still stands more or less intact on a hilltop in northwest Morristown.  The resport is that the buildings are suffering deterioration from neglect and vandalism.  The Main building has been damaged by fire.  Naturally, campus buildings  are a target for ghosthunters and photographers.

Crary Hall in 1910, one of the original Morristown College buildings (Era of Progress and Promise (North Carolina Digital Collections<>). accessed 1-25-2017

Main Building after the 1910 fire. (Bravidos, <> CCby-SA 3.0) accessed 1-25-2017


            Colors: These appear to be Red and Black 

            Team name:  Yearbooks show it as the Red Knights.  In Naming Rites Glenn Arthur Price shows research that                        this is a unique team name in that it "indicates the African-American student body."   He found that in                          1935 the school  president  had noted the team name did "pertain to the racial color and the fact the                                knight is black."


The College Football Data Warehouse shows that Morristown N&I fielded teams off and on between 1906 and 1960.  The 1953 team were co-champions of the Eastern Intercollegiate Conference with a 4-0-1 record.  Through the years Morristown most often played against Livingstone (NC), Norfolk (VA) State, Bluefield (WV) State, Knoxville, Fayetteville (NC) State, Elizabeth City (NC) State, Allen (SC) College and Swift Memorial (TN) JC.



Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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