ENTRY

Anderson, Peyton E. (ca. 1857–1950)

SUMMARY

Peyton E. Anderson was a minister and the first African American superintendent of Prince Edward County‘s rural black schools. Born enslaved near Farmville, after the American Civil War (1861–1865) he committed himself to getting an education and studied ministry at Richmond Theological Institute. He became the superintendent of schools for African Americans in Prince Edward County, where he oversaw the construction of twenty-three rural schoolhouses and developed a curriculum centered on industrial education. For twenty-five years he was also principal of the Virso School, in Prince Edward County. One county superintendent described him as the most versatile schoolteacher he had ever seen. During his career in education, Anderson served as pastor of New Bethel and Shiloh churches, and at his death in 1950 was pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church.

Peyton Everett Anderson was born sometime around 1857 near Farmville, the eldest of three sons and third of eight children of Paschal Anderson, a laborer, and Martha Dupuy Anderson, a seamstress. His parents were among the forty or more slaves owned by Joseph Dupuy, a prosperous Prince Edward County farmer. Anderson’s exact date of birth is disputed, but he was old enough to remember occasions during the Civil War when Union troops stopped by the Dupuy farm for food. One of his brothers died during the war while acting as a bodyguard for Joseph Dupuy’s son William P. Dupuy.

Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute

Although educational opportunities in postwar Virginia were few, Anderson was ambitious and resourceful enough to prepare himself for the ministry. William Dupuy paid for his schooling, a kindness that Anderson repaid by working as Dupuy’s bookkeeper. In 1876, after Anderson completed the seventh grade, he was inspired to become an educator by the attentive instruction of his white teacher. Because half of Farmville’s black youth worked seasonally in tobacco factories, Anderson taught in Prince Edward County at the one-room Virso School between October and February and at nearby Burkeville in Nottoway County from March to July. In his spare time during the years between 1876 and 1880, he studied for the ministry at Richmond Theological Institute. During the 1880s he attended summer sessions at Hampton Institute, at which he came to know and admire James S. Russell, who founded Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, and Booker T. Washington, who founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Anderson also attended the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University) in Ettrick, near Petersburg.

During the 1880s, when land acquisition among blacks rose sharply, Anderson was able to buy seventy-nine acres adjacent to the Dupuy farm. On May 2, 1892, he married Pattie E. Price, of Meherrin, a village on the border of Prince Edward and Lunenburg counties. They had four daughters and five sons. Shortly after the birth of their last child in 1909, Pattie Anderson died.

Jackson Davis’s Photographs of African American Education

  • Caroline County Training School Graduating Class
    Caroline County Training School Graduating Class

    The graduating class of Caroline County Training School—an institution that trained teachers for African American schools—poses for a group portrait on May 19, 1921. The banner behind them reads, "We Finish To Begin." Jackson Davis, the Virginia field agent for the General Education Board from 1915 to 1929, took this photograph, one of about 6,000 he made documenting the conditions of rural schools and the industrial education of African Americans.

    Citation: Jackson Davis Papers, 1906–1947, Accession #3072, #3072-a, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

  • Collecting Donations for the Caroline County Training School
    Collecting Donations for the Caroline County Training School

    A man at right donates money for the Caroline County Training School, an institution that trained teachers for African American schools. Jackson Davis, the Virginia field agent for the General Education Board from 1915 to 1929, took this photograph, one of about 6,000 he made documenting the conditions of rural schools and the industrial education of African Americans.

    Citation: Jackson Davis Papers, 1906–1947, Accession #3072, #3072-a, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

  • Member of the Homemakers Club
    Member of the Homemakers Club

    Bernice Wight, a member of the Homemakers Club in Caroline County, displays tomatoes she grew in her garden. In an attempt to improve rural schools for African Americans early in the twentieth century, an emphasis was placed on industrial education, and students were taught practical skills such as gardening, woodworking, and sewing. Jackson Davis, the Virginia field agent for the General Education Board from 1915 to 1929, took this photograph, one of about 6,000 he made documenting the conditions of rural schools and the industrial education of African Americans.

    Citation: Jackson Davis Papers, 1906–1947, Accession #3072, #3072-a, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

  • White Oak Colored School
    White Oak Colored School

    This 1915 photograph by Jackson Davis shows the interior of the White Oak Colored School in Halifax County. Davis, the Virginia field agent for the General Education Board from 1915 to 1929, took this photograph, one of about 6,000 he made documenting the conditions of rural schools and the industrial education of African Americans.

    Citation: Jackson Davis Papers, 1906–1947, Accession #3072, #3072-a, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

  • One-Room Schoolhouse
    One-Room Schoolhouse

    A teacher and his students pose in a corner of a one-room schoolhouse in Halifax County. The stove at center (probably a wood stove) heated the room. Jackson Davis, the Virginia field agent for the General Education Board from 1915 to 1929, took this photograph, one of about 6,000 he made documenting the conditions of rural schools and the industrial education of African Americans.

    Citation: Jackson Davis Papers, 1906–1947, Accession #3072, #3072-a, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

  • Keswick Colored School
    Keswick Colored School

    Students line up outside the Colored Graded School near Keswick, in Albemarle County, in 1915. Jackson Davis, the Virginia field agent for the General Education Board from 1915 to 1929, took this photograph, one of about 6,000 he made documenting the conditions of rural schools and the industrial education of African Americans. The building depicted is now a private residence.

    Citation: Jackson Davis Papers, 1906–1947, Accession #3072, #3072-a, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

  • Interior of a One-Room Schoolhouse
    Interior of a One-Room Schoolhouse

    Barefoot children sit on benches inside a one-room log schoolhouse in Brunswick County. The walls and the ceiling of the cramped classroom have been used as a blackboard. Jackson Davis, the Virginia field agent for the General Education Board from 1915 to 1929, took this photograph, one of aobut 6,000 he made documenting the conditions of rural schools and the industrial education of African Americans.

    Citation: Jackson Davis Papers, 1906–1947, Accession #3072, #3072-a, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

  • Chair Caning Demonstration
    Chair Caning Demonstration

    A student demonstrates how to cane a chair, a skill he learned at the African American Union Street School in Elizabeth City County (later the city of Hampton). Jackson Davis, the Virginia field agent for the General Education Board from 1915 to 1929, took this photograph, one of about 6,000 he made documenting the conditions of rural schools and the industrial education of African Americans.

    Citation: Jackson Davis Papers, 1906–1947, Accession #3072, #3072-a, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

  • Oak Grove Colored School
    Oak Grove Colored School

    A quilt and other handmade items are strung across the blackboard of a classroom in the Oak Grove Colored School in Brunswick County. A flag-draped portrait of Booker T. Washington, a renowned African American educator, hangs on the wall. Jackson Davis, the Virginia field agent for the General Education Board from 1915 to 1929, took this photograph, one of about 6,000 he made documenting the conditions of rural schools and the industrial education of African Americans.

    Citation: Jackson Davis Papers, 1906–1947, Accession #3072, #3072-a, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

  • Salters Creek School
    Salters Creek School

    An American flag flies atop Salters Creek School, a one-room, African American school in Dinwiddie County. This photograph was taken on Patron's Day, an event that promoted the school's accomplishments for whites who supported African American education. Jackson Davis, the Virginia field agent for the General Education Board from 1915 to 1929, took this photograph, one of about 6,000 he made documenting the conditions of rural schools and the industrial education of African Americans.

    Citation: Jackson Davis Papers, 1906–1947, Accession #3072, #3072-a, Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

In 1910 Anderson became the first African American superintendent of black rural schools in Prince Edward County, a post he held until 1915. One of his most important accomplishments was the establishment of forty school patron leagues, which were instrumental in building twenty-three rural schoolhouses. Promoting the value of economic self-sufficiency, he introduced industrial education classes into these schools. About 1913 Anderson returned to Virso, where he worked as principal until he retired from education in 1938. One county superintendent described him as the most versatile schoolteacher he had ever seen.

Rural Schoolhouse

Throughout his career, Anderson typified the many former slaves who benefited from, and advocated, Booker T. Washington’s doctrine of racial progress and independence through industrial education, or the teaching of trades and technical skills. Anderson found strength in his associations with like-minded African Americans in fraternal orders such as the Knights of Pythias, the United Order of Moses, and the Independent Order of Saint Luke. Although a Republican, he retained close postwar ties with the politically active Dupuy family. To the consternation of some other African Americans, Anderson’s father voted for William Dupuy in the 1880s, when Dupuy was a Democratic candidate for the General Assembly. Anderson’s continuing postwar ties with the Dupuys may have reflected in part his desire to work with political opponents, when feasible, in hopes of softening opposition to black progress. During his career in education, Anderson remained devoted to his ministerial duties, serving as pastor of New Bethel and Shiloh churches and as president of the Bluestone Sunday School Convention. His retirement from teaching when he was in his eighties did not prompt him to retire from the ministry. At the time of his death, he was acting pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Green Bay, Prince Edward County.

Anderson died in Meherrin on December 24, 1950, when he was approximately ninety-three years old, and was buried in the cemetery of Mount Zion Church.

MAP
TIMELINE
ca. 1857
Peyton E. Anderson is born enslaved near Farmville, the eldest of three sons and the third of eight children of Paschal Anderson and Martha Dupuy Anderson.
1876
Peyton E. Anderson completes the seventh grade and is inspired to become an educator by the attentive instruction of his white teacher.
ca. 1876
Peyton E. Anderson teaches in Prince Edward County at the one-room Virso School between October and February and at nearby Burkeville in Nottoway County from March to July. His schedule accommodates the black youths who work in tobacco factories.
1876—1880
Peyton E. Anderson studies for the ministry at Richmond Theological Institute.
1880s
Peyton E. Anderson attends summer sessions at Hampton Institute. He also attends the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University) in Ettrick, near Petersburg.
1880s
Peyton E. Anderson buys seventy-nine acres in Prince Edward County adjacent to the Dupuy plantation, on which he was born and enslaved.
May 2, 1892
Peyton E. Anderson marries Pattie E. Prince, of Meherrin. They will have four daughters and five sons.
1909
Pattie E. Prince, wife of Peyton E. Anderson, dies shortly after childbirth.
1910
Peyton E. Anderson becomes the first African American superintendent of black rural schools in Prince Edward County, a post he will hold until 1915.
ca. 1913
Peyton E. Anderson returns to Virso School in Prince Edward County, where he works as principal.
1938
Peyton E. Anderson retires from education after being the principal of Virso School for twenty-five years.
December 24, 1950
Peyton E. Anderson dies in Meherrin and is buried in the cemetery of Mount Zion Church.
FURTHER READING
  • Morgan, Lynda J. “Anderson, Peyton Everett.” In Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 1, edited by John T. Kneebone, et al., 149–150. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998.
CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Morgan, Lynda. Anderson, Peyton E. (ca. 1857–1950). (2021, February 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/anderson-peyton-e-ca-1857-1950.
MLA Citation:
Morgan, Lynda. "Anderson, Peyton E. (ca. 1857–1950)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (12 Feb. 2021). Web. 22 Oct. 2021
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