Author: Elvatrice Parker Belsches

a Richmond area public historian, researcher, author, and filmmaker who specializes in chronicling the black experience in history

Virginia Estelle Randolph (1870–1958)

Virginia Estelle Randolph, born of formerly enslaved parents in Richmond, was a pioneering educator, community health advocate, organizational leader, and humanitarian. Educated within the public schools of Richmond, Randolph embarked on a career in education that spanned nearly sixty years. She reportedly began her teaching career in Goochland County in or around 1890 and retired as supervisor of black schools in Henrico County in 1949. Her 1894 appointment as teacher of a one-room school for black children in Henrico County proved pivotal in her development of innovative approaches to integrating industrial arts into the academic curriculum. Her commitment to her community and education galvanized interracial cooperation in broadening access to educational opportunities and healthcare well beyond her region. Her efforts culminated in her selection as the first countywide Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher in the South in 1908. In this role, she traveled weekly to each of the black schools in Henrico County to train teachers and build community support. She also trained educators throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. The Virginia E. Randolph Training School was built and named in her honor in 1915. In 1926, Randolph received the William E. Harmon Award for Distinguished Achievement in the field of education. She garnered international acclaim as her methods grew to be used throughout rural areas of the entire American South and the British colonies in Africa. She died in 1958.