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Collection Highlights Life of U. of Arkansas' First Black Professor

Dr. Gordon Morgan, the first African-American professor hired by the University of Arkansas, passed away in December at age 88. (Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries)
Dr. Gordon Morgan, the first African-American professor hired by the University of Arkansas, passed away in December at age 88. (Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries)
February 19, 2020

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A new, special collection documents the work of Dr. Gordon Morgan, the first African-American professor hired by the University of Arkansas.

Morgan was hired in 1969 as an associate professor of sociology, at a time when few faculty members of color could be found at predominantly white institutions. He retired as emeritus professor in 2012. University of Arkansas archivist Amy Allen said one of Morgan's best known books, "The Edge of Campus," details campus life after desegregation.

"The book was written by Dr. Morgan and his wife; it was published in 1990 and it gives a broad overview of integration at the U of A, which started in 1948," she said, "but there were still many challenges when Dr. Morgan came to campus in '69."

Morgan passed away last December at age 88. Allen noted that anyone interested in Morgan's life and work can access his collection at the University of Arkansas Libraries. Morgan published more than a dozen books, along with numerous journal and newspaper articles, manuscripts and plays, but Allen said she believes Morgan's unfinished writings offer the greatest insight into his experience.

"The drafts and the unpublished work feel more like you're reading his thoughts or talking to him, so it gives you a little better sense of the person and his unfiltered ideas," she said. "So, it really gives a more complete picture of what was going on at that time."

According to research by the Hechinger Report, predominantly white four-year public and private colleges have made little progress boosting faculty diversity. It said that between 2006 and 2016, the number of black professors at these institutions dipped from 7% to 6.6%.

The collection is online at libraries.uark.edu, and the Hechinger analysis is at hechingerreport.org.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR