Virginia State University

VSU is located at Ettrick in Chesterfield County, just north of Petersburg
VSU is located at Ettrick in Chesterfield County, just north of Petersburg
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

Virginia State University was chartered on March 6, 1882 as Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute. The Readjuster coalition, a biracial coalition which had taken control of Virginia government in 1881, won the support of black votes by promising to create a new school with a broad educational approach:1

Unlike most other Black colleges in Virginia and across the U.S., which taught African Americans industrial and agricultural trades in the years after slavery, the new university would include a liberal arts program. It would be coed, the entire faculty would be African American, along with most members of the Board of Visitors, the school's governing body.

The school opened in 1883 a at Ettrick in Chesterfield County. At the time, all seven members of the faculty were black men. John Mercer Langston was the first school president.

White leaders in Virginia incorporated racial segregation in the new state constitution in 1902. The liberal arts program at Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute was curtailed that year, and the school was renamed Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute.

The Federal government had provided funding for a white and a black land grant school in Virginia since 1872. That funding initially was provided to Hampton Institute, a private school. In 1920 the funding was switched to the state-supported Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute. Three years later the liberal arts program was re-established, and in 1930 the school was renamed again as Virginia State College for Negroes.

In 1944 the school took over the Norfolk Polytechnic College in Norfolk, which offered a two-year college program. That branch became a four-year school in 1956, and then became the separate Norfolk State College (now University) in 1969. In 1979, the Virginia General Assembly changed the name of the Virginia State College for Negroes to Virginia State University.2

Legal Segregation and "Jim Crow"

Race and Virginia



1. "History of VSU," Virginia State University,; "Ready to Rise," Richmond Magazine, July 11, 2022, (last checked July 26, 2022)
2. "History of VSU," Virginia State University,; "History and Mission," Norfolk State University, (last checked July 26, 2022)

Education in Virginia
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