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New Display

17 October, 2013

VSU Homecoming is upon us, and that means a new display of Virginia State University archival materials in Virginia Hall. To see the display and learn a little about the campus in days past, go to the third floor of Virginia Hall for 14 cases of history on exhibit!

Want to learn more? Come to Lindsay-Montague Hall right next door!


October is Archives Month!

26 September, 2013

Archives Month is fast approaching. The theme this year? Homegrown Virginia. Archives across the Commonwealth will be celebrating Virginia’s history, culture, and heritage with special programs, displays, and exhibits.

We’ve got a few things up our sleeves here at VSU’s Special Collections and Archives. Just a sample of what we’re planning: tours of the archives, and a display of historic photographs and artifacts on the 3rd floor of Virginia Hall. Watch this space for more information and a few more activities to be announced!



Women’s History at VSU- Part 1

15 March, 2013

March is Women’s History month, and VSU celebrates year round. Not only does VSU host talks, performances, and events centered on women and women’s issues, but many of the buildings on campus are named for influential women of the VSU community. Here’s a quick look at those buildings.

Anderson-Turner Auditorium,  named for English professors Felicia Anderson and Zatella Turner. Ms. Anderson was a graduate of the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (now VSU) in 1912, before going on to receive her AB from Fisk University and MA from Columbia University. She returned to Ettrick to join the faculty at VSU in 1916. She established the Drama Deparment at the university, founded the Players Guild in 1926, and assisted students in producing many plays on campus.  Ms. Anderson is also notable for writing the words to VSU’s Alma Mater. She retired in 1965.

Ms. Turner held two degrees from the University of Kansas, and published a book, My Wonderful Year, recounting her time during which she studied abroad in England while in school there. Ms. Turner taught at two other universities before joining the VSU faculty in 1940.  Ms. Turner started the Shakespeare Hour in one of her classes, and became a well-respected Shakespeare scholar before retiring in 1973. Ms. Turner passed away in 1996.

Branch Hall, named for alumna Mary Branch. Ms. Branch was the first graduate of VSU to become a president of a college when she was named president of Tillotson Teacher’s College in Texas in 1930. Ms. Branch graduated from the Normal Department in 1897, and taught school  until she joined the faculty of VSU in 1905. She was an instructor in the Normal Preparatory department. She continued to supplement her education, eventually earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Chicago during the early 1920’s. Ms. Branch was deeply involved in many organizations; she served as President of the Austin chapter of the NAACP, and helped to establish the United Negro College Fund. Ms. Branch passed away in 1944.

Howard Hall (demolished 2012), named for English professor and Virginia Statesman founder Otelia S. Howard, a native of Petersburg and a graduate of VNCII. She received her AB from Fisk University, and her MA from Columbia University. She began teaching at VSU in 1921, and in addition to being an invaluable part of the English department and founder of the school newspaper, she was also a member and supporter of the Treble Clef Club, and a founding member of Iota Sigma Lambda, an honor society. Ms. Howard passed away in 1946.

Jones Dining Hall, named for Cora Z. Jones, the “Mother of the University.” Ms. Jones joined the staff in 1888 and held myriad positions, such as nurse, housekeeper, Matron of the dining room, and she served as the Matron of Girls. She retired in 1940 after 52 years of service. Jones Hall was the first building named for a woman at VSU.

Information comes from:

Zatella R. Turner Collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS 645, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Olive D. Brown and Michael R. Heintze, “BRANCH, MARY ELIZABETH,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed March 14, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Loyal Sons and Daughters , by Edgar Toppin 

VSU Archives Record Group-Printed, Building Dedication Programs and Testimonial Dinner programs.

Greek Life at VSU is a Rush!

14 September, 2012

Rush is coming! Thinking of joining a fraternity or sorority on campus this fall? You may be sent to Special Collections and Archives to find out more about the organization you want to join. Unfortunately, since we only have what we are given by a sorority or a fraternity, for the most part we do not have much material relating to the VSU chapters, but there is some general information available here at SC&A.

Manuscript Material!

We have some original material relating to the Alpha Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. Click here for the finding aid.

We also have a scrapbook of the Pyramid Club and Delta Sigma Theta. Due to their fragility, they are available on a limited basis. Call or email Special Collections for more information.

*Note: The scrapbook and Alpha Omega materials are the only materials we have that deal with VSU chapeters. They do not contain the names of the founding members of the undergraduate chapters at VSU.*

Materials pertaining to Sororities and Fraternities, or members of certain sororities and fraternities in VSU’s Special Collections and Archival holdings can be found here at these links:

Alpha Kappa Alpha

Alpha Phi Alpha

Delta Sigma Theta

Kappa Alpha Psi

Omega Psi Phi

Please note that most materials will not deal with the VSU chapters of the organization, even though we hold the materials. Please read the collection guides to see if the materials are useful to you. Also note which collections you would like to see (for instance, if you want to look at the Alpha Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Papers, please note  the title of the collection, the accession number [ie 1976-79], and any box:folder numbers you want to look at [ie 2:3]) before coming to Special Collections and Archives. This helps us help you faster!

Remember: Materials are in closed stacks which means a friendly member of the Archives Staff will have to retrieve the materials for you, so the more information you bring us, the faster we can help you get what you need.

Also remember that all items must be used in our Reading Room and my not be checked out or removed from the building, so plan your visits accordingly with enough time to read through what you want to see.



Brown, Tamara L., Gregory S. Parks, Clarenda M. Phillips. African-American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and The Vision (2005) **
LJ31 .A47 2005

Alpha Kappa Alpha:

Parker, Marjorie. Alpha Kappa Alpha Through the Years, 1908-1888 (1990)
LJ165 .A4968 1990

Parker, Marjorie. Alpha Kappa Alpha: In the Eye of the Beholder(1978)
LJ165 .A6 P3

Parker, Marjorie. Past is Prologue: The History of Alpha Kappa Alpha, 1908-1999
LJ145 .A592972 P37 1999

Footprints in the Sand of Time…The Legacy
LJ145 .F66 L43 1998

Alpha Phi Alpha:

Wesley, Charles H. The History of Alpha Phi Alpha; A Development in Negro College Life (1929, 1935, 1948)
LJ121 .A55 W4

Wesley, Charles H. Henry Arthur Callis: Life and Legacy (1977)
R154 .C22 W47

Mason, Herman. The Talented Tenth: The Founders and Presidents of Alpha (1999) **
LJ75 .A55 M37 1999

Parks, Gregory S. and Stefan M. Bradley. Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, the Demands of Transcendance (2012)**
LJ121 .A55 A56 2012

Delta Sigma Theta

Vroman, Mary Elizabeth. Shaped to its Purpose: Delta Sigma Theta- The First Fifty Years (1965)
LJ145. D58 V7

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Delta Girls: Stories of Sisterhood: An Anthology of Stories Written by Women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (2004)
LJ145 .D4 D45 2004

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. History  (ca. 1987)
LJ145 .D615 D34 1987

Giddings, Paula. In Search of Sisterhood: Delta Sigma Theta and the Challenge of the Black Sorority Movement (2006)
LJ145 .D615 G53 2006

Omega Psi Phi

Dreer, Herman. The History of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, a Brotherhood of Negro College Men, 1911 to 1939 (1940)
LJ75 .O55 D7

Not currently on VSU Campus:

Sigma Pi Phi

Wesley, Charles H. History of Sigma Pi Phi, First of the Negro-American Greek-Letter Fraternities (1954)
LJ165 .S55 W4

Please note books marked with ** indicate there may be a copy available to check out at Johnston Memorial Library. Please consult the Troy Library Catalog to check availability.

Bring us the name and call number of the book you want for fastest service.

There may be other books on African-American Greek organizations, their members, and Greek life available in Johnston Memorial Library that are not listed here. Please check out the catalog or talk to one of the friendly reference librarians and they will point you in the right direction. They can also help you get books through Interlibrary Loan that can be found on other campuses throughout the United States.

Can’t find what you want at VSU? Think about traveling to other repositories:

Alpha Phi Alpha

Alpha Kappa Alpha

Zeta Phi Beta

Phi Beta Sigma

Sigma Gamma Rho

Delta Sigma Theta

Omega Psi Phi

Most of these materials will pertain to a certain member of the fraternity or sorority, or a specific chapter. The materials not at VSU are not likely to have information on the VSU chapters, but may have general information available. Read through the finding aid or contact the holding repository to find out more about what information the collections have. Remember: Special Collections and Archival material does not circulate, so if you want to see or use the materials, you will have to travel to the holding institution and many repositories require appointments or are only open limited hours so it is recommended to contact the holding institution (in a university, can generally be found on the library page) before traveling to save yourself unneeded headaches.

Greek Life Cheat Sheet

7 September, 2012

Greek life is a pretty big part of the Virginia State University social scene. Here’s a quick cheat sheet of the eight VSU chapters currently on campus and their founding dates for those of you thinking of rushing.

Alpha Kappa Alpha: Founded 1/15/1908 at Howard University. Alpha Epsilon Chapter founded 5/15/1926 at VSU. A noted chapter sister was Camilla Williams.

Alpha Phi Alpha: Founded 12/04/1906 at Cornell University. Beta Gamma Chapter founded 12/22/1926 at VSU.

Delta Sigma Theta: Founded 1/13/1913 at Howard University. Alpha Eta Chapter founded 1/10/1930 at VSU.

Iota Phi Theta: Founded 11/12/1922 at  Morgan State University (Then Morgan State College). Eta Chapter founded 10/31/1971 at VSU.

Omega Psi Phi: Founded 11/17/1911 at Howard University. Nu Psi Chapter founded 1927 at VSU under the influence of Luther P. Jackson and Hermanze Fauntleroy.

Phi Beta Sigma: Founded 1/19/1914 at Howard University. Alpha Alpha Alpha Chapter founded 2/28/1931 at VSU.

Sigma Gamma Rho: Founded 11/12/1922 at Butler University. Alpha Zeta Chapter founded 3/26/1936 at VSU.

Zeta Phi Beta: Founded 1/16/1920 at Howard University. Phi Chapter founded 4/16/1929 at VSU with help from their Norfolk and Richmond, VA sisters.

The Early Days at Virginia State University

28 August, 2012

A warm welcome to new Virginia State University students! And welcome back to returning students! It is sure to be a great year for the Trojans.

As a student at Virginia State University, have you ever wondered what it was like for students in the early years of the school? It cannot have been exactly the same as it is now. In fact, it was quite different.

Six years after VSU opened as the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute it had a total of 326 students. State-supported universities in Virginia were not co-ed at the time; because VSU educated both male and female students, it was unique in the state. All courses were taught by African-American faculty, a rarity in schools for African-American students at the time.  The college had two programs—the Collegiate program, a 4-year program “designed to give a higher and broader culture to those… who are able to remain longer in school or desire to pursue the professions” and the Normal Course, which prepared students to become teachers in 3 years.

The First Athletic Association

The school was not only concerned with the academic advancement and preparation of its students, but their physical health and advancement as well. Social regulations were much stricter than they are today. “Home Training” was an important part of life at VSU.  Rooms were inspected for order and cleanliness regularly, and demerits issued if they were found not up to standards. There was particular attention to dress and etiquette, with especially strict rules for the young ladies. The 1888 catalogue notes that “the girls are under constant care of the matron and… not allowed to leave school grounds unless accompanied by some teacher. All are taught that expensive wearing apparel is not only unnecessary, but that the institution wants nothing but good plain clothing.” The school found it important to teach economy in thrift as tools that would serve the young ladies well when running households of their own. In addition to their academic courses, the female students were taught how to run a household, and as part of their training were required learn all aspects of needle-craft, from fine sewing to darning and patching. They were also required to do their own laundry, while male students paid to have that chore done for them.  However, male students didn’t get off scot-free: they were required to drill and exercise in order to teach them “compliance and manly deportment.”

A Domestic Science Class

In the early days, the entire school—dorms, classrooms, dining hall, offices, and library, were housed in the original Virginia Hall. It was much bigger than the Virginia Hall that stands today, encompassing the space occupied by Lindsay- Montague, Virginia, and Colson Halls today. There was no co-ed housing; men and women were housed in opposite wings of the building.  Fraternizing between the men and women students was not allowed; rule 49 in the 1896 catalog read “No student shall correspond, walk, play, or converse with the opposite sex on the grounds, nor on their visits to and from church.” And some students say the co-ed visiting rules are strict now!

A Football Game in front of Old Virginia Hall

Compared to the rules in place during the school’s early years, the rules students have to follow today do not seem nearly as bad. Sure, students still have to adhere to visiting hours, but at least the university does not determine who students may or may not visit with at all times any more. Students have a little more leeway with their dress and room décor, as well as their social activities on and off campus.

Fun With History Pin

7 May, 2012

I’ve been having some fun with our new History Pin page this past month. I’ve been updating the history of buildings on campus and adding more historical pictures. I’ve also taken and uploaded current pictures of campus buildings and juxtaposed them in a “yesterday and today” gallery. I need to take a little more time of walking around campus to get pictures of the few last buildings and places, and to scan some more photographs in our collections for the “yesterday” aspect and it will be complete.

One of the neatest things about History Pin is that it’s not just the person who created the page who can publish to it. Multiple users can interact, adding their own photos and their own stories to the page and enriching the history and context. I love this aspect of the site, because I want students, alumni, and faculty/staff to interact with us, to make the archives personally meaningful to them.

To post your own photos, use the History Pin App on your phone.

To add your stories to existing VSU-pinned photographs, click on the photograph you have a story about, and click the “Add your voice” button at the bottom of the “Nearby” or “Stories” menus.

Remember to keep all stories Safe-For-Work, rated no more than PG please! We want everyone to be able to enjoy stories about Virginia State University’s history.

I hope you all will take part in the History Pin experiment to create a richer story of VSU online!