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Tougaloo College's first gymnasium and auditorium structure was named in honor of the late Dr. Fred L. Brownlee, former General Secretary of the American Missionary Association.
The origins of Tougaloo College can be traced back to the story of the "Amistad." In 1839, two Cubans purchased African slaves in Havana. Once aboard the ship that would take them to a remote island, the slaves revolted and forced the Cubans to head to Africa. However, the Cubans steered toward the United States. Once they arrived in port, the Africans were arrested. A committee was formed to ensure that these Africans were given a fair trial. Eventually, the slaves were freed and sent home. However, the Amistad committee soon realized there was an inconsistency in their concern for blacks from Africa and those blacks enslaved in America. The Amistad Committee then evolved into the American Missionary Association (A.M.A.). This group was nonsectarian and free from church control. After the Civil War, the A.M.A. was responsible for the education of many freedman.
Some accounts claim that Brownlee Gymnasium had the first indoor basketball court used by many African-Americans in Mississippi in the late 1940's and early 1950's. It is constructed of concrete masonry infill walls, steel columns, and beams with steel trusses supporting the roof. The building has two chamfered corners, each with art deco entrances with ceramic tile and glass block highlights above each door. There are two sections to the building: the gymnasium space, which includes the bleachers and court areas; and the lower two-story section of the building, which houses the stage and support spaces. Presently this building is in poor condition and requires major rehabilitation. The College is planning to restore the building and convert it into a new art and education center.
Campbell, Clarice T., and Oscar Allan Rogers, Jr. Mississippi: The View from Tougaloo. Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 1979 and 2002.
Campus Planning and Development Assessment [Tougaloo College]. National Park Service report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1989.
Dixon, John Morris. "How to Grow a Campus: 1. Tougaloo College." Architectural Forum 124 (April 1966): 56-60.
Historical Sketch of Tougaloo University: Tougaloo, Mississippi. [s.l.:] American Missionary Association, 1909.
Mayo, Amory Dwight. Industrial Education in the South. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1888.
Mississippi State Building Commission. "Physical Facilities, Institutions of Higher Learning, State of Mississippi, Public and Private Institutions." Report. 1967-1968.
"Negro." WPA Records, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.
"Tougaloo College." WPA Records, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, MS.
U.S. Congress. House Committee on Natural Resources. Historically Black Colleges and Universities Historic Building Restoration and Preservation Act: Report Together with Dissenting Views (To Accompany H.R. 2921) (Including Cost Estimate of the Congressional Budget Office.) [Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1993.]
Wise, Deborah G. Tougaloo College Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1998.