Kristopher “Morgan” Powell

Nov 25, 1973 – September 29, 2014

Morgan Powell lived for Bronx history and its beauty. He spoke about everything from the borough’s parks, rivers and early settlers, the kind of people for whom streets and neighborhoods are named, including the waves of African-American and Latino immigrants who remade the area during the 20th century.

He paid the bills working as a landscaper and gardener. Morgan sustained his spirit with his love of Bronx history and his advocacy for the natural environment. He did his research on his own, sharing his knowledge and passion on blogs and free tours.

Mr. Powell, lived on Allerton Avenue, not far from the tree-shaded paths along Bronx Park East and the Bronx River. He had grown up in the area, attended Christopher Columbus High School and eventually became interested in horticulture through a program at the nearby New York Botanical Garden. His interest in history was piqued by a plaque he had spotted at the garden that referred to Joseph Rodman Drake, a poet and a member of a prominent early Bronx family.

Mr. Powell threw himself into the study of local history, combining it with his love of nature. In time, he developed walking tours that explored both the environment and the borough’s African-American past, which he detailed on his Bronx River Sankofa blog.  To his friends, Mr. Powell was intelligent, confident and unashamed of being gay. Active on social media, he lamented about the lack of a support group for closeted black men in the Bronx. It was one cause, he told friends, on which he would not take the lead.

Just before his untimely death in 2014 at the age of 40, Powell gave part of his archives to Fordham University. His book collection, known affectionately by friends as the Morgan Library.  The collection buttressed the late historian’s already substantial contribution to the Bronx African American History Project (BAAHP). The archives include material from his two primary interests: African-American history and local ecology. Along the way, Powell became as much of an activist as he was a tour guide. He lobbied for an African-American history collection at the New York Public Library’s Bronx Library Center and for a new master plan at Crotona Park.