Virginia Randolph

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Virginia E. Randolph
Photo of Virginia Randolph
Born(1874-06-08)June 8, 1874
DiedMarch 16, 1958(1958-03-16) (aged 87)

Virginia Estelle Randolph (August 6, 1870 – March 16, 1958)[1] was an African-American educator in Henrico County, Virginia.[2] She was named the United States' first "Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher" by her Superintendent of Schools, Jackson T. Davis,[3] and she led a program funded by the Jeanes Foundation to upgrade vocational training throughout the U.S. South as her career progressed. Her work is widely associated with vocational education.[4] Two schools of the Henrico County Public Schools system were named in her honor and in 2009 Randolph was posthumously honored by the Library of Virginia as one of their "Virginia Women in History" for her career and contributions to education.[5]

Youth, education[edit]

She was born on August 6, 1870, in Richmond, Virginia.[4] Born only nine years after the end of the American Civil War (1861–1865) and Emancipation for the slaves in her community, Virginia Randolph was the third child of former slaves Sarah Elizabeth Carter Randolph and Edward Nelson Randolph. At the age of 16, she graduated from Richmond Normal School (now Armstrong High School) in Richmond, Virginia.[6]

Career in public education[edit]

Randolph began her career as a school teacher. After a short teaching experience in Goochland County, she secured a teaching position with the Henrico County School Board. She opened the Mountain Road School in the north-central part of the county in 1892. As a teacher there, Randolph taught her students woodworking, sewing, cooking, and gardening, as well as academics.[7]

In 1908, Henrico County Superintendent of Schools Jackson T. Davis named her to become the United States' first "Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher."[3] Anna T. Jeanes, a wealthy Philadelphia Quaker, had set aside $1 million to establish a fund to maintain and assist rural schools for African Americans in the South. Among its projects, the Jeanes Foundation provided funds to employ black "supervisors" dedicated to upgrading vocational training programs for black students.[8] African-American supervisors of teachers in the rural south from 1908 to 1968, Jeanes teachers (formally called Jeanes supervising industrial teachers) worked toward improving the communities of schools.

As the overseer of twenty-three elementary schools in Henrico County, Randolph developed the first in-service training program for black teachers and worked on improving the curriculum of the schools. With the freedom to design her own agenda, she shaped industrial work and community self-help programs to meet specific needs of schools.[6] She chronicled her progress by becoming the author of the Henrico Plan which became a reference book for southern schools receiving assistance from the Jeanes Foundation, which became known as the Negro Rural School Fund.[9] Randolph's teaching techniques and philosophy were later adopted in Great Britain's African colonies.[6]

On March 30, 1908, following a proclamation by Virginia Governor Claude A. Swanson, Randolph founded the first Arbor Day Program in Virginia. She and her students planted twelve sycamore trees. Some of the trees remain standing as living monuments, but over the years, some of the trees were lost to disease. In 1976, the remaining ones were named the first notable trees in Virginia by the National Park Service.[3]

In 1915, Randolph opened the Virginia Randolph Training School and later expanded the facility to include dormitories for future teachers. It was later renamed to Virginia Randolph Education Center.[3]

Randolph was appointed to the Industrial School Board of Colored Children after the death of another noted Richmonder, Maggie L. Walker. She also served for many years on the Inter-Racial and Health Board for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

After a 57-year career with Henrico County Public Schools, Randolph retired in 1949. A foundation to honor her and award scholarships was formed in 1954. She died in Richmond on March 16, 1958, at the age of 84.[2][4]


  • Virginia Randolph Community High School in Glen Allen, Virginia is named in her honor.[13]
  • Virginia Randolph Foundation, Inc formed in 1954, annually awards scholarships to Henrico County high school students who will be attending a 4 year college or university.[2]


  1. ^ Hester,Wesley P. "New birth year uncovered for Maggie L.Walker", Richmond Times Dispatch, July 5, 2009, p. B4
  2. ^ a b c The Virginia Randolph Foundation, Inc
  3. ^ a b c d "Henrico County Manager's Office". Archived from the original on February 23, 2009. Retrieved July 23, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d James Sheire (July 31, 1974). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Virginia E. Randolph Museum – Virginia Cardwell Cottage / Home Economics Cottage" (pdf). National Park Service. and Accompanying one photo, undated (plus an unrelated photo of Poe Shrine, "oldest house" in Richmond, Virginia) (32 KB)
  5. ^ "Virginia Estelle Randolph (1874–1958)". Library of Virginia. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "African American Registry: Virginia E. Randoplh, a teaching pioneer!". Archived from the original on December 1, 2007. Retrieved July 23, 2008.
  7. ^ Virginia Randolph biography at
  8. ^ "Anna T. Jeanes and the Jeanes Fund". Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved October 11, 2008.
  9. ^ "Legacy Museum – Struggle – Philanthropy". Archived from the original on December 16, 2006. Retrieved October 11, 2008.
  10. ^ Smith, Jessie Carney (2002). Black Firsts (revised ed.). Visible Ink Press. p. 212. ISBN 1578592585. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  11. ^ Kofi Lomotey, ed. (2010). Encyclopedia of African American Education. v1. Sage Publications. p. 50. ISBN 1412940508. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  12. ^ "Virginia Randolph Cottage". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on October 19, 2014. Retrieved April 21, 2008.
  13. ^ VA Randolph Community High School

External links[edit]