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On this date in 1874, Virginia Randolph was born. She was a Black educator, social worker, and humanitarian.
Born near Richmond, VA, Virginia Estelle Randolph was the daughter of former slaves Sarah Elizabeth Carter and Edward Nelson Randolph. The former owner of her mother (a professor at Old Richmond College) witnessed the marriage of her parents and was responsible for naming her and her three brothers and sisters. Virginia grew up during Reconstruction, was a teacher by the time she was 16 and became an internationally known authority on vocational education for Black students.
Randolph first taught in Goochland in 1892, and she taught at the one-room Mountain Road School in Henrico County, Virginia. Besides academics, Randolph taught her student's such skills as gardening, woodworking, and sewing. Her novel teaching methods at times brought opposition from parents who wanted their children to learn from books, but the county superintendent stood behind her. In 1908, Randolph was appointed the first Jeanes Supervisor Industrial Teacher, providing the first formal in-service teacher training for rural Black teachers in Virginia.
She improved industrial skills and education in general in every one of the county's rural schools for Blacks. With the freedom to design her own agenda, she shaped industrial work and community self-help programs to meet the specific needs of schools. To reach the 23 schools she supervised, outings that took up to three hours one way on often-rough country roads, she had to hire a buggy and driver, an expense that consumed much of her salary, later she bought her own horse.
She recorded the improvements made at each school under her program, the “Henrico Plan,” that was sent to county superintendents throughout the South. Randolph's teaching techniques and philosophy were later adopted in Britain's African colonies. In 1915, the Virginia Randolph Training School was built.
Students enrolled from throughout the county. Since transportation was not provided Randolph often kept children in her Richmond home so they could attend. Some 59 children boarded with her over the years.
Randolph built separate dormitories for girls and boys, and students came to her school from as far away as New York. In 1929, a fire destroyed the wooden Virginia Randolph Training School. A bigger brick school was built later that year and named the Virginia Randolph High School.
Virginia Randolph died on March 16, 1958. Currently, several of her education programs are housed in the Virginia Randolph Educational Center.
The African American Atlas
Black History & Culture: An Illustrated Reference
by Molefi K. Asanta and Mark T. Mattson
Macmillan USA, Simon & Schuster, New York