Fredericksburg Normal and Industrial Institute
The best source of information on Fredericksburg Normal and Industrial Institute is Lester F. Russell’s Black Baptist Secondary Schools in Virginia 1887-1957. Some school statistics are found in the 1916 Stokes-Phelps Report and the 1917 Report of the Commissioner of Education. Samuel A. Brown (right) was one of the founders and first president of the school. Image from History of the American Negro and his Institutions. https://babel.hathitrust.org/
Without educational opportunities for black students beyond elementary level, fifteen men--most associated with the Shiloh Baptist Church in Fredericksburg—each put up $10 to organize a secondary school in the town. That school opened with one teacher and 10-15 students (later increased to 20) on October 2, 1905. The successes of that year—attracting both financial support and students from surrounding counties-- led to plans for an enlarged school. Officially it was named Fredericksburg Normal and Industrial Institute. But the new location led to a second designation of Mayview High School. The names were used interchangeably.
Largely supported by the Baptist congregations, F.N.I.I. was nevertheless independent. In 1914 the City of Fredericksburg contributed $200 annually in exchange for free tuition for city students. By 1920 that amount had reached $1800 annually.
Feeling that education needed a moral and religious base, the school required that each class open with a devotional service. In addition, prayer services were held twice weekly and church services each week. There was a week of prayer each spring with required attendance. .
The Stokes-Phelps Report shows an enrollment of 47—35 of whom were enrolled in the normal program, with eight in the college preparatory program. That report found that the “Industrial” school was limited to “a little sewing.” The commissioner’s report showed a slightly larger school of 58 students—19 males and 39 females.
Around 1915 F.N.I.I. received state accreditation, so that its graduates automatically received teaching credentials. Students were offered three courses of study—academic, vocational, and industrial with graduation requirements of 16-18 credits. Ultimately all teachers had baccalaureate degrees.
Russell notes that students had access to an Honors Society, a Dunbar Literary Society, a Choral Club, a Dramatics Club and a Debating Society. Debaters participated in regional competitions with other schools.
By the 1930’s F.N.I.I. felt that it was bearing too much of the responsibility for the education of Blacks in the region. After the 1937-38 school year, it merged with the new public segregated elementary school, becoming the state-supported Walker-Grant School. Thus its 33 years of independent existence ended.
Fredericksburg Normal and Industrial Institute students in 1914. Image courtesy of Central Rappahannock heritage Center
Bricks and Mortar
Classes began in the basement of the Shiloh Baptist Church (New Site). The success of the first year led the founders to purchase “Moorefield,” a 55-acre farm south of the city. The farmhouse on the property was renovated and relocated to “Tyler nr Caroline rd” in Fredericksburg in 1906.
The two-story frame structure consisted of a large kitchen and seven living/bed rooms. Two first-floor rooms were set aside as classrooms. The rest became living quarters for the president’s family and dormitory space for female students. In 1908 two more classrooms were added. In 1914 a separate three-room structure was built, providing another classroom and two dormitory rooms for male students, sleeping twelve to the room.
After what had been F.N.I.I. moved into the new two-story brick Walker-Grant building, the trustees received permission to dispose of the old campus in 1942. That property now appears to be a community playground.
(Left) Site of Fredericksburg Normal and Industrial Institute in south Fredericksburg. Flickr image (https://www.flickr.com/photos/umwdtlt/2383097687/in/photostream/
Russell says, “Major sports were encouraged for the purpose of moral and physical development. Contests in baseball, basketball. football, and track were held with other schools in northern Virginia.”
Newspapers show football games in 1908. F.N.I.I. split games with the “city scrubs,” winning 15-12 and losing 17-10. There was also a listed game with Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute, without results.
The Free Lance newspaper reported a 1911 baseball game in which F.N.I.I. lost to Howard University 5-2. In 1908 Howard University defeated “Fredericksburg” 60-0 in football; this possibly was F.N.I.I.