About the website
The Story of the Virginia Interscholastic Association (VIA) website is designed to preserve the rich heritage and legacy of African-American students and adults who participated in the Virginia Interscholastic Association from 1954-70 and its predecessor organization the Virginia Interscholastic Association League (VIAL).
The site was launched in 2018 with content from the VIA archives at the VSU Special Collections and Archives. The goal is to work with VIA alumni to add more first person stories, primary documents, and narratives. In addition, more documents from the extensive collection at the VSU archives will be added.
About the VIA
The VIA was an organization of African-American high schools created in 1954 through the efforts of African-American secondary school principals and administrative with operational funds from the Virginia General Assembly. The organization provided enriching opportunities and activities to African-American high schools that were otherwise inaccessible due to racial, social and economic barriers. The VIA provided a wide range of exceptional activities such as athletics, arts, academic competitions and student associations during a time of segregation. Virginia State University acted as the host institution and provided staff for operations through the Field Service Division. They also served as the main location of athletic activities. In this role, Virginia State University also provided the training and development for the directors and coaches who ran the extracurricular programs. Academic activities such Science and Math competitions alternated between Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, Hampton, and St. Paul’s College. The collaboration between the VIA, Virginia State University as well as other Virginia African-American universities, provided students with opportunities for higher education through enrollment and grant aid programs.
The VIA is also a story about a vision for a society where African-American high school students were acknowledged for their intelligence, creative skills and athletic abilities. Virginia State University was not only the institutional body that held the VIA together but also the epicenter of African-American culture at this time. The VIA was very beneficial for students but also helped the relationship between African-American institutions of higher education, parents and community members. The organization lasted until 1969 when it was dissolved due to integration. Upon being defunded the program was merged with the VHSL (Virginia High School League).
This website aims to present and document the archived materials of the VIA. It also serves to capture an educational moment in African American history. Ultimately, we hope that the website is able to present the many aspects that encapsulated the VIA as an educational and cultural project.
From 1954 – 1969 the VIA had over 100 schools as a part of their membership and during it’s peak operation nearly 40,000 students were members of the association. Schools all across Virginia were associated with the VIA. Learn more.
In the spring of 1952, over 100 principals of secondary schools met to establish a Special Committee to look into sponsoring extracurricular activities in high schools. This led to a summer conference the same year at Hampton University where high school principals found that the lack of funding was huge problem for African-American high schools. The group suggested that there be an organization to coordinate statewide activities for African-American high schools, thus the foundation was laid for what would become the VIA. Learn more.
“The Virginia Interscholastic Association story is about the struggles for existence, public support and philosophy for creative enrichment to school experiences and an account of how the challenges of a great need was met through many services to students and their schools.” — J.F. Banks, Associate Director, Division of Secondary Education for the State Department of Education