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Black History of Virginia Tech

Black History of Virginia Tech

Projects underway from the Council on Virginia Tech History that acknowledge university history in the context of today and the Beyond Boundaries vision for the future.

PRESERVING STORIES OF BLACK ALUMNI AND OTHERS

Beginning in the 1990s, efforts were initiated to preserve the stories of Black graduates and community members of Virginia Tech. Tapes, recordings, transcripts, and videos were created to record the recollections of a wide range of historical actors in Virginia Tech’s history and provide open access to all.

Interviews in the collection include five of the six pioneer Black men of the 1950s and five of the six Black women who enrolled in 1966.

VT Stories, an oral history project initiated in 2015 by President Tim Sands, continues the preservation effort to include capturing the memories of Virginia Tech alumni, faculty, staff, and community members. 

For those interested in preserving their Virginia Tech story, visit the VT Stories website and share.


VISUALIZING VIRGINIA TECH'S BLACK HISTORY

Digital techniques are being employed in the production of a growing collection of dramatic stories from Virginia Tech’s past.

Visualizing Virginia Tech’s History, a cross-disciplinary team of faculty and students, have developed online exhibitions depicting influential periods and locations in Virginia Tech’s history such as the Fraction Family House and Solitude.

The team is also developing an on-location Augmented Reality tour examining the multiple layers of Solitude’s history in addition to a remote 360-degree video option.

Another initiative from Visualizing Virginia Tech’s History features an Augmented Reality tour of Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus through space and time.


A NARRATIVE OF BLACK HISTORY AT VIRGINIA TECH

For Virginia Tech’s 125th anniversary in 1997, Dr. Peter Wallenstein of the History department authored a book, Virginia Tech, Land-Grant University 1872-1997, which he refers to as “Orange."

The book’s chapter on the university in the 1950s highlighted the first eight Black students to enroll at Virginia Tech, including Irving Peddrew, the first to enroll (in 1953), and Charlie Yates, the first to graduate (in 1958). 

In 2004, Wallenstein co-authored a book on the presidency of T. Marshall Hahn Jr. (1962-1974). It further developed stories from the 1960s of the first cohort of Black female students who enrolled at Virginia Tech in 1966. Among them was double-first Linda Adams, who had enrolled at a branch campus in 1964, making her Virginia Tech's first Black female student, and when she graduated in 1968, she became the first Black woman to earn a degree from Virginia Tech.

Wallenstein’s book also features the first intercollegiate Black athletes, including Jerry Gaines in track (from 1967), and the beginnings in 1968 of Groove Phi Groove, the first social group organized by and primarily for Black students at Virginia Tech. 

Wallenstein’s current book under development for Virginia Tech’s sesquicentennial in 2022, which he refers to as “Maroon,” will provide an updated and expanded history of the university.

“Virginia Tech never was an ‘all-white’ campus,” said Wallenstein. Andrew Oliver, for example, worked as a janitor for Virginia Tech from its earliest years.

"Maroon" highlights William and Janie Hoge, key figures from the 1950s who, in their Clay Street home, hosted the first eight black students, who were all required to live off campus.

The book also features the 2003 dedication of the Peddrew-Yates Residence Hall on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.


THE BLACK CULTURAL CENTER

The Council on Virginia Tech History will be providing new materials for consideration for display in the Black Cultural Center, which in itself is an integral part of the black history of Virginia Tech. These materials relate to such historical figures as:

  • Thomas and Othello Fraction
  • Andrew Oliver and Fanny Vaughn Oliver
  • Janie and William Hoge