Skip to main content

Virginia State University Special Collections and Archives: Home

Special Collections Hours

8am - 4:30pm

9am - 3:30pm

Research Hours:
9am - 4pm

Wednesday- Thursday:
9am - 3pm

Not open Weekends, federal and most state holidays, or the week between Christmas and New Years (generally Dec. 23-31)

Special Collections and Archives is located in Lindsay-Montague Hall.

Appointments appreciated. For more information, please call Francine Archer at 804-524-1023.


Special Collections and Archives Staff

Francine Archer
Project Archivist
Lindsay-Montague Hall room 203
ph: 804-524-1023

Mailing Address:
Virginia State University
Special Collections and Archives
Johnston Memorial Library
Box 9406
Virginia State University, VA 23806

Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute Article to Incorporate

Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute - First Class 1886


Students Top Row: James Shields, Lucretia Campbell, Susie Douglass, Fannie Walker, Carrie Bragg, Willie Davis, Jerry Lucas, Robert Green. Faculty: Bottom Row President Mercer Langston, Mrs. Ida R. Harris, and Professor James M. Colson

Did You Know?

Virginia State University's Special Collections and University Archives was not formally established until 1976, but the department has its origins in the library's "Negro Room," established in the 1930's .

The Special Collections and University Archives now consist of three components: Rare Books, Manuscripts, and University Archives. The rare books area, which originally sought to house books written by African American authors, has now been expanded to include other titles. In particular, Rare Books seeks to collect local histories of the Southside area of Virginia, histories of Black Colleges, and works written by VSU faculty and alumni. If you wish to find a particular book in Special Collections, please consult the "Rare and Special Collections Books" tab.

There are a number of manuscript collections, all of which document the history of blacks in Virginia since 1772. Included in this group are the Luther Porter Jackson Family Papers, the Colson-Hill Family Papers, the Virginia Teachers Association Records, and the Prince Edward County (VA) Free School Records. The majority of the documents date from the 1880s on. If you want to find more information on manuscript and special collections in our holdings, please see the "Manuscript Collections" tab.

The University Archives are the official records maintained by law [The Virginia Public Records Act, {} 42.1-76].The records are divided into groups and date from 1883. In these record groups may be found, minutes of the board of visitors, annual reports, and records of students documenting their experiences at the University since 1883.

Historical Profile

Virginia State University was founded on March 6, 1882, when the legislature passed a bill to charter the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute. Delegate Alfred W. Harris, a Black attorney who represented Dinwiddie County in the General Assembly, sponsored the bill. A hostile lawsuit delayed opening day for nineteen months until October 1, 1883. In 1902, the legislature revised the charter act to curtail the collegiate program and to change the name to Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute. In 1920, the land-grant program for Blacks was moved from a private school, Hampton Institute, where it had been since 1872, to Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute. In 1923, the college program was restored and the name changed, in 1930, to Virginia State College for Negroes. A two-year branch in Norfolk was added to the college in 1944; the Norfolk division became a four-year branch in 1956 and gained independence as Norfolk State College in 1969. The parent school was renamed Virginia State College in 1946 and later, Virginia State University in 1979.

In its first academic year, 1883-84, the University had 126 students and seven faculty, all of them Black; one building, 33 acres, a 200-book library, and a $20,000 budget. In 1996, the University which is fully integrated, has a student body of nearly 4,000, a full-time faculty of approximately 200, a library containing 230,000 volumes and 460,000 microfilm and non-print items, a 236-acre campus and a 416-acre farm, more than 50 buildings (including 15 dormitories and 16 classroom buildings), and an annual budget of $55,310,451 in operating appropriations exclusive of capital outlay. Expenses have increased since the mid-1880's when tuition was $3.35 and room and board was $20.00.

The University is situated in Chesterfield County at Ettrick on a bluff across the Appomattox River from the city of Petersburg. It is accessible via Interstate Highways, 95 and 85, which meet in Petersburg. The University is only two and a half hours away from Washington, DC to the north, the Raleigh-Durham-chapel Hill area to the southwest, and Charlottesville to the northwest.

Virginia State University has a long history of outstanding faculty and administration. The first head to bear the title of President, John Mercer Langston, was one of the best known Blacks of his day; he was the first Black elected to the United States Congress from Virginia (1988), and he was the great uncle of the famed writer Langston Hughes. From 1888 to 1968, four presidents -- James H. Johnston John M. Gandy, Luther H. Foster, and Robert P. Daniel -- each serving an average of twenty years, helped the school to overcome adversity and move forward. The next twenty-four years, 1968-1992 saw six more presidents -- James F. Tucker, Wendell P. Russell, Walker H. Quarles, Jr., Thomas M. Law, Wilbert Greenfield and Wesley Cornelious McClure. On June 1, 1993, Eddie N. Moore, Jr., the former Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Virginia, became the twelfth President of Virginia State University.

Virginia State University looks forward to a new tomorrow, continuing into a second century of excellence. A few of the significant achievements of the first century include the gaining of University status, the move to incorporate doctoral programs, a more secure status for Cooperative Extension, the revitalization of the agricultural and land-grant programs, and the first steps toward professional schools in the fields of social work and engineering technology. With its able administration and outstanding faculty, Virginia State University, the regional university for Southside Virginia, envisions an exciting future to transcend its
illustrious past.

Web Links

Rules and Regulations

Rules and Regulations

A Few things to Know Before Your Visit
1.) No Smoking, eating (gum and candy included), or drinking is permitted in the Reading Rooms.

2.) Cameras with flash and personal scanners are not permitted.

3.) All briefcases, bags, and personal effects not essential to work must be stored in a place designated for that purpose.

4.) Cell phones must be turned off or in silent (no vibrate) mode at all times.

5.) Notes must be taken with pencil, tape recorder, laptop, or typewriter. Ink pens of any kind may not be used.

6.) Papers are generally in an established order. If each item in a folder is turned like a page, the existing order in the folder will be preserved. Please notify a staff member if any pages are apparently misfiled.

7.) All responsibility for securing permissions to publish from unpublished manuscripts in which literary property rights are retained is assumed by the user of the material.

Users may find it helpful to visit the Society of American Archivists' Guide to Effective Research before visiting:
  (link to the SAA Researchers Guide)

Other Regulations
1.) When you arrive you will be asked to sign in and fill out an application for research which will be valid until the end of VSU's fiscal year (June 30th).
You will be asked to state your home address and phone number, purpose of research, materials desired on this form.

2.) A form of ID (student, faculty, military, driver’s license, passport, etc.) is required.

3.) Researchers will be required to fill out call slips for all archival and rare book materials requested.To speed the process, you may wish to have book call numbers, and archival/manuscript accession numbers, collection names, and box numbers ready. You may find that information in TROY the library catalog, and on the VSU Special Collections webpage.

3.) Materials may be photocopied at the discretion of the archivists.
Archivists will determine what may or may not be photocopied. An archivist will make the copies for patrons.

4.) Please keep materials flat on the worktable. Do not hold items up to read in your hands or in your lap.  Do lean or write on the materials