Black College in Maryland Saved by State’s Highest Court

In 2003 Sojourner-Douglass College of Baltimore set up a satellite campus in a rural area of Anne Arundel County. More than 98 percent of students at the college are black.

The six-acre lot where the new campus was situated had a restrictive covenant which stipulated that the land could be used only “for educational facilities in conjunction with the Anne Arundel County Board of Education.” In short, the land was set aside as a future site for a public school, not a college or a university.

A local homeowners association filed suit against the college. Officials at the college maintained that racism was the motivation behind the lawsuit but local homeowners said merely that they objected to the increased traffic generated by the commuter college. A local court ruled in favor of the Sojourner-Douglass College but an appeals court said that the college’s building violated the restricted covenant and would have to be removed.

Now the Maryland Court of Appeals has overturned that decision and the college will be permitted to maintain its satellite campus. The court said that the local school board’s plan to utilize the space from time to time and the fact that students at the college could serve as student teachers in the local public schools were enough to satisfy the restrictive covenant.