Virginia State University is one of the best known historically black institutions in the country.
Founded in 1882 with a cohort of 126 students, Virginia State has been known by its current name since 1979. Between 1944 and 1969, it incorporated Norfolk State College, a historically black institution in coastal Virginia which is 80 miles south east of Virginia State. It is coeducational.
Virginia State’s campus, which comprises more than 230 acres, is in the small city of Petersburg, 20 miles south of state capital Richmond and just north of the Appomattox River, which flows into the James River and then into the Atlantic Ocean. It is 125 miles south of Washington D.C., the nation’s capital. The university also has its own 416-acre farm and agricultural research centre, named after historian Carter G. Woodson, often cited as the father of black history and the founder of what became Black History Month.
Its seven colleges provide more than 50 study programmes, from economics to hospitality management, mass communications, political science, computer engineering, mathematics and music. Its two doctoral courses are psychology and health psychology.
William H. Lewis, one of the first African-Americans to hold high office, as US assistant attorney general from 1911 to 1913, James Avery, the actor who starred as Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and also appeared in Iron Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dr. Dolittle 2, and Pamela E. Bridgewater, a diplomat who has served as US ambassador to Jamaica, Ghana and Benin, all attended Virginia State.