Andrew Morgan was among the earliest African Americans employed by Elon College. He began working at Elon in 1926 as the campus maintenance worker and worked continuously for the school until his death in 1964. An obituary in the Alumni News mourned the passing of “one of the oldest and best-loved employees of Elon College,” even though the school denied admission to black students until the last year of Morgan’s life. Snapshots from Morgan’s career thus present the opportunity to explore what it meant to be among Elon’s the “best-loved” staff members in the age of Jim Crow.
- 1896Plessy v. FergusonSupreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson rules racial segregation legal allowing the creation of "Jim Crow" laws. "Jim Crow" laws created "separate but equal" spaces for whites and blacks.
- 1900Andrew MorganAndrew Morgan is born on April 3, 1900 in Alamance County to Peter and Eliza Cooper Morgan.
- 1926Joining ElonAndrew Morgan begins working at Elon College as the campus maintenance worker after leaving his job as an assembly line worker at a local textile mill.
- 1942"In the Land of Cotton"The 1942 edition of PhiPsiCli featuring the theme, "In the Land of Cotton" was published. This edition of the Elon College yearbook featured images of African Americans in stereotypical situations of manual labor.
- 1954Brown v. Board of EducationSupreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education declares that segregation is unconstitutional.
- 1963Glenda Phillips HightowerIn the Fall of 1963 Glenda Phillips Hightower becomes the first full-time African American student admitted to Elon College.
- 1964Civil Rights Act & DeathIn July of 1964 the Civil Rights Act was signed, prohibiting discrimination of any kind. In August of 1964 Andrew Morgan dies while repairing a pipe under his house.
- 2012Memories of Andrew MorganFormer Elon President James Earl Danieley and Andrew Morgan's great niece, and one of Elon's first black staff members, Janice Ratliff are interviewed by a group of students about their memories of Andrew Morgan for a class project.
Primary Sources are “traces of the past,” or firsthand accounts that people have left behind. Since they are firsthand accounts, they reflect the perspective of their author. They can be incomplete, hard to understand, and even distributing. For each of the sources below, consider who wrote the source, under what circumstances, and for what purposes.
- Excerpts from the Elon Yearbook (Phi Psi Cli) for 1936 and 1958 – Most Black staff did not appear in the yearbook, and Morgan was no exception. Student editors included photos of Morgan in a handful of years, however, including 1936 and 1958.
- United States Federal Census, Manuscript Returns, Households of Andrew Morgan and Leon Edgar Smith (1940) – The Federal Census contains a wealth of information about individuals. In 1940, for instance, the census taker recorded the names of every person living in a household, as well as the number of hours worked and the annual salary. Morgan’s household shows some of the nieces and nephews whom he and his wife, Hattie, adopted as their own. Then Elon President Leon Edgar Smith’s entry is a useful point of comparison.
- Earl Danieley, “Eulogy: Andrew Morgan Was a Big Man” (Aug. 30, 1964) – Then President Earl Danieley delivered the eulogy for Morgan at Morgan’s church, Archer’s Grove Christian Church and remembered Morgan as a “Big Man.”
- Luther Byrd, “Andy Morgan is Killed while Working on Plumbing,” Alumni News, 23, n. 1 (Sept. 1964) – Luther Byrd wrote the announcement of Morgan’s death in the Alumni News, in which he described the conditions of Morgan’s death, his role on campus, and his family.
- Earl Danieley, Interviews by Professor Prudence Layne and her college writing class, Spring 2012, transcript in Elon University Special Collections – Emeritus President Earl Danieley reflected on Morgan’s life. In addition to reading a transcript of his 1964 eulogy, he offered additional anecdotes and observations about the experiences of Black staff at Elon.
- Janice Ratliff, interview by Charles Irons, fall 2020, transcript in Elon University Special Collections. Ratliff, Morgan’s great-niece, offered her recollections of the Morgan household.
Secondary Sources are scholarly accounts, written at a remove from the action itself and with additional interpretation and analysis. While historians most frequently use the primary/secondary source distinction, scholars from many different disciplines have contributed important insights about the nature of systemic racism. Scholars for a long time ignored Black staff on college campuses completely, so most scholarly accounts explore the 1960s to the present.
- Peter Magdola and Liliana Deman, “Campus Custodians in the Corporate University: Castes, Crossing Borders, and Critical Consciousness,” Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 47, n. 3 (2016): 246-263. – Magdola and Deman examine how hard it is to cross borders between university subcultures and address why “the ever-present gap between campus castes (e.g., scholars vs. service workers) appear(s) to be growing wider.”
- Erik Ludwig, “Closing in on the ‘Plantation’: Coalition Building and the Role of Black Women’s Grievances in Duke University Labor Disputes, 1965-1968,” Feminist Studies, 25, n. 1 (Spring 1999): 79-94. – Morgan died in the beginning of a period of massive institutional change in which universities accepted Black students but only slowly altered policies for Black staff. The experience of Shirley Ramsey at nearby Duke University (Durham, NC) illustrate the kinds of struggles Black staff faced in the 1960s.
- Jennifer F. Hamer and Clarence Lang, “Race, Structural Violence, and the Neoliberal University: The Challenges of Inhabitation,” Critical Sociology, 41, n. 6 (2015): 897-912. – Hamer and Lang do not address historical inequalities but are rather probe the gap between the values that universities profess and the structural relationships of power they reproduce.
- Charles W. Eagles, “‘I Love Colored People, but in Their Place’: Segregation at Ole Miss,” in The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009). – The politics of race and labor at Ole Miss and Elon in the age of segregation have a great deal in common.
- Ana S. Q. Liberato, Dana Fennell and William L. Jeffries IV, “I Still Remember America: Senior African Americans Talk About Segregation,” Journal of African American Studies, 12, n. 3 (Sept. 2008): 229-242. – The authors describe through an analysis of ten interviews how Black Americans coped with the traumas of segregation.
Any of the primary sources individually merits a close reading. Taken together, they offer good possibilities for in-class work. Examples include:
Biography and Imagination
COR Goals: Critical Thinking, Research Skills, and Communication Skills
Activity/Discussion Questions: Divide students into groups and have each group work with a different source about Andrew Morgan: the Danieley eulogy, the US census returns, the Ratliff interview, the Alumni News article, and the yearbook photographs. Give students with the yearbook photographs access to the entire yearbooks so that they may have more context.
Ask students to record all of the information they can about Morgan from the sources. To facilitate comparison across groups, you may choose to ask students to answer basic biographical questions (name, age, role at Elon, reputation among faculty and students, family life, personal qualities, commitments outside of Elon, etc.). Ask students in different groups to contrast and compare their narratives. What can we know about Morgan from these sources? Which sources are the most useful, and in which ways? Do you think the white students who put together the yearbook considered the images demeaning? How do you think Black staff considered them?
Individuals and Institutions
COR Goals: Critical Thinking, Research Skills, Global Perspective, and Communication Skills
Activity/Discussion Questions: The Alumni News described Morgan as “one of the oldest and best-loved employees of Elon College.” The focus on Morgan as an individual conceals a great deal about the institutional context in which he worked. What can you tell about Morgan’s working conditions? What can you tell about the experiences of contemporary Black staff from the Ratliff and Danieley interviews? From the census records? Did any of the whites address Morgan’s working conditions or race relations more generally? How would you describe the relationship between the generosity whites demonstrated to Morgan personally and the broader system whites supported of segregation and white supremacy?
Automobiles and Status
COR Goals: Critical Thinking, Research Skills, and Communication Skills
Activity/Discussion Questions: Earl Danieley featured very prominently an anecdote about Andrew Morgan’s purchase of an automobile that was longer than Elon President Leon Edgar Smith’s. He concluded, “When Andy found out that his car was longer than Smith’s car that was a great time. It was a great thing in the community. Everybody knew about it. And we were glad for Andy that his car was longer.” Please read Danieley’s entire discussion of the automobile and look at the entries for Morgan and Smith in the Federal Census of 1940 (or at least take note of the income differential: $5,000/year v. $300/year). There is no doubt that Morgan took pride in his car (cf. the photograph). What function do you think this story fulfilled within Morgan’s family? Within the broader Elon community? What stories did it conceal?
History and Memory
COR Goals: Curiosity and Questioning, Research Skills, Communication Skills, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving
Assignment: Colleges and universities across the country, like Elon, are revisiting their past and realizing the extent to which they have ignored the lives, experiences, and contributions of Black people. This project can scale up or down depending on how extensively students evaluate history and memory work at other institutions, ranging from a survey of best practices to a close look at a particularly prominent effort at memorialization (UVA’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers). Working individually or in groups, have students create a proposal to honor the memory of Andrew Morgan on Elon’s campus. The memorial could take a variety of forms, and students should be encouraged to be creative. After creating their proposal, they will share their ideas with the class as if they were presenting their recommendations to the President Book and the Board of Trustees. Students could be required to support their recommendation with evidence from Morgan’s life, context from the secondary sources, and examples from other institutions.
Labor Inequality Today
COR Goals: Curiosity and Questioning, Research Skills, Broad Base of Knowledge, Global Perspective, Communication Skills, Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving
Assignment: Andrew Morgan’s career provides a potential entry point into larger questions about racial disparities in income on college and university campuses. Students might read the Hamer and Lang article about race and structural violence, the Magdola and Deman article about the gap between custodial staff and other members of campus, and/or an influential essay (expanded from the Chronicle) in the Huffington Post on the crusade to bring living wages to campus workers. In what ways is Andrew Morgan’s story a story about structural inequality (systemic racism)? What elements of this story are still in place today? Depending on what additional, discipline-specific materials faculty would like to include, the larger question about how to address these inequalities is also available.
Uncovering Andrew Morgan
As a longer term assignment, this would pair very well with “Biography and Imagination,” above.
COR Goals: Research Skills, Communication Skills, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving
Assignment: Most of the available primary sources about Andrew Morgan were written by white men and thus paint a picture of Morgan tainted by white supremacy. The same whites who professed to love Morgan also ascribed to Jim Crow ideologies of racial confinement and inequality. Have students write a biography of Andrew Morgan using the available primary sources and other materials (this may be as much of a research project as faculty would like, and they may set the universe of additional sources, which may include Elon student newspapers, yearbooks, etc. from Morgan’s time, and/or secondary sources discussing the segregated South from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including but not limited to those provided). Please avoid asking students to conduct oral histories so that the scale of student requests does not overwhelm those who knew of or about Morgan.