The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories
Randolph-Macon College/Boynton Institute heritage project
Repository: Randolph-Macon College. McGraw-Page Library
Collection Description (CRHP): This collection consists of 5 interviews relating to the Boynton Institute, including one of Wyatt Tee Walker, a member of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s leadership circle. He discusses his memories of Vernon Johns in particular. The other four interviews are of women who had connections to the institute. The oral history project is completely done by volunteers.
Collection Description (Extant): We have been interviewing folks recently in an attempt to recover some of the 56-year history of Boydton Academic and Bible Institute, which was located in Boydton, VA from 1879 to 1935, under the auspices of several different leadership groups. From 1832 to 1869, the campus was the first site of Randolph-Macon College, a Methodist-related school for whites only. In 1869, R-MC moved to and is now located in Ashland, VA, 15 miles north of Richmond. At one point during the next 10 years, the site was occupied by the Freedmen's Bureau. Then, in 1879, a physician/minister from Boston purchased the 425-acre campus and its formidable buildings and established Boydton Academic and Bible Institute to provide education for Black folks, especially former slaves and their families. We have found very few records about the school, but the few that we have discovered convince that the young people who attended Boydton Institute were important leaders of their generation. A case in point is Vernon Johns, who went to school there in his early years from 1905 to 1910. Johns is considered by many as the 'father' of the Civil Rights Movement. A native of Prince Edward County in Virginia, he preceded Dr. King as the minister at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. In a publication for the school year 1888-1889 that listed the names of students and their hometowns, we found Kirke Smith. He left Boydton Institute and went on to become an important figure in the pre-Civil Rights Movement times. We are confident that many more, surely most, of students from the school became critical leaders of the Black community wherever they went and were the precursors of the Civil Rights Movement of the later years.
Access Copy Note: The audio and video recordings are currently stored in Laurie Preston's office at Randolph-Macon's library; she is head of the reference department there. Project director Bill Boyd has other materials on the school in his personal possession. All of the recordings will be in digital eventually. The originals of the sound only recordings were made in digital. The video recordings were made in .wav but are being converted to digital.
Digital Status: Partial
Extent: audio recordings; video recordings; photographs; manuscripts
Interviewees: Wyatt Tee Walker
Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights
African American schools
African American students--Virginia
African Americans--Education (Higher)
Civil rights--Religious aspects--Christianity
Johns, Vernon, 1892-1965
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
Segregation in education--Virginia