VIRGINIA RANDOLPH Biography - Educators, philosophers & public speakers


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Name: Virginia Estelle Randolph                                                       
Born: 6 August 1874                                                                   
Died: 16 March 1958                                                                   
Virginia Estelle Randolph (August 6, 1874 - March 16, 1958) was an African             
American educator in Henrico County, Virginia. During her 57-year career, she         
became recognized world-wide as a pioneer educator, humanitarian and leader in         
the field of public school education.                                                 
Born 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.                                         
Miss 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.                     
In 1908, Henrico County Superintendent of Schools Jackson T. Davis named her to       
become the United State's first "Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher."               
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. 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, Virginia         
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. 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. Randolph's teaching techniques and philosophy were later           
adopted in Great Britain's African colonies.                                           
On March 30, 1908, following a proclamation by Virginia Governor Claude A.             
Swanson, Miss 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.                                                                 
In 1915, Miss 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.                                         
Miss 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           
After a 57-year career with Henrico County Public Schools, Miss Randolph retired       
in 1949. A foundation to honor her and award scholarships was formed in 1954.         
She died March 16, 1958, at the age of 84.