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Reverend Dr. Calvin Morris

Minister, historian and human rights advocate the Reverend Dr. Calvin Sylvester Morris was born March 16, 1941, in Philadelphia. He attended Meade Elementary School and Vaux Junior High School. Morris was awarded a partial scholarship to Friends Select High School, a private Quaker school known for its high standards. One of two black students in his class, Morris graduated with honors in 1959. He then went on to Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania graduating cum laude in 1963 with a B.A. in history. At Boston University, he earned an M.A. in history in 1964 and an S.B.T. in theology in 1967. Morris was also ordained in the United Methodist Church.

Later in 1967, Morris moved to Chicago to work on his Ph.D., but was asked by the Reverend Jesse Jackson to become the associate director and national coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Operation Breadbasket, now the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. He served from 1967 to 1971, through the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Fred Hampton. Breadbasket attracted activists and celebrities like Fannie Lou Hamer, Bill Cosby, Julius "Cannonball" Adderly, Rosa Parks, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Mahalia Jackson and Sammy Davis, Jr.

From 1971 to 1973, Morris was coordinator of the African American Studies Program at Simmons College in Boston. As executive director of Atlanta's Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change from 1973 to 1976, Morris was again associated with SCLC as he worked directly with Coretta Scott King. In 1976, he began a sixteen-year professional association with Howard University's School of Divinity during which he worked as director of ministries to church and Society, director of field education and associate professor of pastoral theology. Morris earned his Ph.D. in American history from Boston University in 1982. He was executive vice president of Academic Services and academic dean at Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta from 1992 to 1998. Chicago's Community Renewal Society (CRS) hired Morris as executive director in 1998. At CRS, Morris presides over two publications, a staff of forty-seven and a budget of $4.5 million.

Morris is a board member of the Golden Apple Foundation, Chicago Chamber Musicians, Chicago Theater Company, Sojourner and the Wieboldt Foundation. He is a co-convener of the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago and is a co-chairman of Jobs for Justice Clergy Committee. Morris was elected treasurer of the Board of Trustees of Lincoln University, his alma mater. He lives near his daughter in Chicago.

Accession Number

A2003.053

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/21/2003

Last Name

Morris

Maker Category
Middle Name

S.

Organizations
Schools

Friends Select High School

Lincoln University

Vaux Junior High School

Friends Select School

Gen. George G. Meade School

Boston University

Boston University School of Theology

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Calvin

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

MOR03

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - Negotiable

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cape Town, South Africa

Favorite Quote

Hold Fast To Your Dreams, For When Dreams Die, Life Is A Broken-Winged Bird That Cannot Fly. - Langston Hughes

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

3/16/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Greens (Collard)

Short Description

Social activist, nonprofit chief executive, minister, and theologian Reverend Dr. Calvin Morris (1941 - ) was affiliated for many years with Howard University's School of Divinity and was active with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Operation Breadbasket (Rainbow/PUSH Coalition), and a number of other civil rights organizations.

Employment

Rainbow/PUSH

Simmons College

Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change

Howard University School of Divinity

Interdenominational Theological Center

Chicago Community Renewal Society

Favorite Color

Maroon, Pink

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Calvin Morris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Calvin Morris lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Calvin Morris describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Calvin Morris talks about the African United Methodist Protestant Church

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Calvin Morris describes the entrepreneurial background of his paternal family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Calvin Morris describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Calvin Morris describes the lessons he learned as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Calvin Morris describes family dynamics during his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Calvin Morris talks about his mother's occupation and his family's love of music

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Calvin Morris describes how newspapers influenced his upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Calvin Morris talks about the role of the church during his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Calvin Morris describes why his father moved from North Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a young man

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Calvin Morris describes his father

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Calvin Morris describes how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Calvin Morris describes his experiences living with his father as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Calvin Morris describes the foods he ate growing up Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Calvin Morris describes his childhood neighborhood in North Philadelphia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Calvin Morris describes his childhood recreational activities

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Calvin Morris describes his grandmother's role in the family

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Calvin Morris describes his father's pride in his accomplishments

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Calvin Morris talks about his mother's death

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Calvin Morris describes the type of student he was

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Calvin Morris talks about the teachers that influenced him as an elementary school student

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Calvin Morris talks about attending Vaux Junior High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Calvin Morris describes his experiences attending Vaux Junior High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Calvin Morris describes how he was selected to attend Friends Select School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Calvin Morris describes his experiences attending Friends Select School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Calvin Morris talks about being mentored and tutored by the custodian at Friends Select School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Calvin Morris talks about Reverend Dennis Fletcher, his mentor

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Calvin Morris describes why he enrolled at Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Calvin Morris describes his experiences attending Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Calvin Morris talks about the professors that influenced him at Lincoln University

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Calvin Morris describes the lasting impact of his time at Lincoln University and Friends Select School

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Calvin Morris describes his activism and awareness of current events as a high school student at Friends Select School

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Calvin Morris describes activist culture on the campus of Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Calvin Morris describes activist culture on the campus of Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Calvin Morris describes his first experience with discrimination

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Calvin Morris describes his aspirations upon graduating from Lincoln University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Calvin Morris talks about the impact of receiving a Crusade Scholarship from the United Methodist Church

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Calvin Morris describes why he enrolled at Boston University School of Theology in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Calvin Morris describes how he became involved with Operation Breadbasket

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Calvin Morris describes the growth of Operation Breadbasket

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Calvin Morris talks about well-known individuals who supported Operation Breadbasket

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Calvin Morris describes Operation Breadbasket's Political Education Division

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Calvin Morris describes his role as associate director of Operation Breadbasket

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Calvin Morris describes the impact of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination on Operation Breadbasket

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Calvin Morris describes the impact of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination on the leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Calvin Morris describes the impact of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination on the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Calvin Morris describes how Operation Breadbasket became Operation PUSH

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Calvin Morris describes how he was hired as the Executive Director of The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Calvin Morris describes his experiences as the Executive Director of The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Calvin Morris talks about the Marcus Chenault shooting at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia and the King Family tragedies

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Calvin Morris comments on God and tragedy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Calvin Morris describes why he left his position as associate director of Operation Breadbasket

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Calvin Morris describes leaving his position as Executive Director of The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Calvin Morris describes the challenges he faced as the Executive Director of The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Calvin Morris describes the challenges he faced as the Executive Director of The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Calvin Morris describes his experiences serving as Director of Field Education and Howard University School of Divinity

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Calvin Morris describes his experiences working as an associate professor at Howard University School of Divinity

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Calvin Morris talks about Howard Thurman

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Calvin Morris describes two books by Howard Thurman, "The Negro Spiritual Speaks of Life and Death" and "Jesus and the Disinherited"

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Calvin Morris describes Howard Thurman's religious philosophy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Calvin Morris describes his religious philosophy

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Calvin Morris talks about Reverdy Cassius Ransom, the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Calvin Morris talks about persuading HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. to speak at Howard University

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Calvin Morris talks about Bishop Desmond Tutu speaking at Howard University

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Calvin Morris reflects upon his experiences teaching at Howard University

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Calvin Morris talks about working as a dean for the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Calvin Morris talks about the history of the Community Renewal Society

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Calvin Morris describes the programs and services the Community Renewal Society offers

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Calvin Morris talks about the community organizing efforts of Community Renewal Society offers

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Calvin Morris talks about the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Calvin Morris talks about "Catalyst Chicago" and the "Chicago Reporter," publications of the Community Renewal Society

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Calvin Morris describes the Community Renewal Society's stance against the War in Iraq

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Calvin Morris describes his concerns surrounding the criminal justice system and young people, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Calvin Morris describes his concerns surrounding the criminal justice system and young people, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Calvin Morris comments on the public's lack of interest in the political process

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Calvin Morris reflects upon his legacy, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Calvin Morris reflects upon his legacy, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Calvin Morris talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Calvin Morris narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Calvin Morris narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Calvin Morris narrates his photographs, pt. 3

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Calvin Morris narrates his photographs, pt. 4

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Calvin Morris narrates his photographs, pt. 5

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$7

DAStory

10$6

DATitle
Calvin Morris describes how newspapers influenced his upbringing
Calvin Morris describes the programs and services the Community Renewal Society offers
Transcript
My mother [Dorothy Lee Morris] was a very public-spirited person. She was interested in what was going on in the community, and while I grew up in a household that did not have books--and I'll tell you why I have all these books. I collect books now. And there's no room in this house that doesn't have bookcases. But we were a family of newspapers. And so we, we had, we got the Philadelphia morning paper which was called the "Enquirer". We got the evening paper which is called the "Philadelphia Bulletin". The "Enquirer" is still existence. I think the "Bulletin" is not. We got two black newspapers, weekly newspapers in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], one called "The Philadelphia Tribune", which is one of the oldest black newspapers in the country. "The Philadelphia Independent" and we got a black newspaper called "The Pittsburgh Courier". And we read the newspaper after dinner. And then we discussed what we read in the newspaper. And so I had my time to talk about what I read--$$So this was organized?$$It was organized. Now, I did not understand the process at the time, but later on, as I would go to high school--and I went to a Quaker school in downtown Philadelphia, where I was exposed to passivism and nonviolence and all that kind of stuff long before I joined SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] and got to know Martin Luther King, Jr. So we, we did all that kind of discussing of current events, what was going on in the world. I remember the "Pittsburgh Courier" had a column by Benjamin E. Mays, the President of Morehouse College [Atlanta, Georgia], who was the Dean of the School of Religion at Howard University [Washington, D.C.] where I would go to be on the faculty for sixteen years and actually Dr. Mays suggested that I go to Howard because he was the chair of the Board of Trustees of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change during the three years I was executive director down there. And Langston Hughes who I would meet three years before his death, also had the simple column. And so Lester Grainger of the Urban League and you learned about, you know, Mary McLeod Bethune and Mary Church Terrell and all these significant African American people who were very much involved in the world of politics and Civil Rights and things of that type. That was a part of my upbringing as a little boy in North Philadelphia.$$Did you ever read J. A. Rogers' column, "Your History"?$$Yes, I do. I remember J. A. Rogers [Joel Augustus Rogers], and I know I remember, I think Lester Granger may have had a column for a while. I remember reading about W.E.B DuBois and Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, later, Bayard Rustin who I met, and I knew. So, yeah.$We continue to be concerned that the, the moral voice be applied to issues that face our communities. We are committed to fighting racism and poverty. That's a part of our mission statement. And we do so several ways, education and information. We have two publications. "The Chicago Reporter", which is an investigative journal around issues of racism and poverty and "Catalyst, Voices of Chicago's School Reform" that looks at the whole issue of education. And we recognize that education in our culture and in this city is very much related to black and Hispanic, Latino youngsters. We also have an interfaith network of ministers that has worked recently, the last four or five years around the issues of public housing and we have fought to assure that the transformation plan that CHA has with the federal government and the city will, in fact, provide the 25,000 new or rehabbed units for CHA [Chicago Housing Authority] residents. We have co-convened the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago. And we look at issues of criminal justice system and justice reform, where the death penalty issues or whether expungement legislation with some of our legislatures, particularly, Constance Howard [HM] and Danny Davis [HM] are looking at those kind of issues. And we involve ourselves with efforts to help strengthen community-based organizations so that they can be self-determining, and they can work to enhance the local communities in the City of Chicago. We are a staff of about 40 with a budget of $4 million. And I'm the tenth Executive Director of the Society and the first non-UCC [United Church of Christ] Executive Director, although I have, since I've arrived done what we call dual standing in the church. So I am considered a bona fide UCC minister who happens to be initially ordained as a United Methodist. And we, it's a wonderful organization with all kinds of roots in the community. And those roots allow me an opportunity to be involved in a lot of issues, most recently, of course, a lot of work around the anti-war effort. Although the war has begun, we have felt that it's important to continue to say that we ought to be advocates for peace instead of war.