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.
Two years later, on April 20th 1954, the VIA was formed as a program dedicated to providing athletic, art and student participation activities for African-American high schools across the state of Virginia. The General Assembly allocated funds for staff of Virginia State University to administer and provide training for teachers and coaches. Operational funds for activities were streamlined through student fees.
While many welcomed the VIA, the documents from the Virginia State University archives reveal that many teachers and principals rejected the VIA because they felt that a network already existed between African-American high schools. The group felt that a centralized organization would be too controlling and was a show of “excessive power” and often expressed these sentiments at organizing meetings. Through the early years, the organization faced many challenges but worked hard to listen to differing opinions and adjust to the changing times.
The Executive Committee was the body that administered activities, schedules, conferences, competitions and appointments. The body consisted of “(a) the three groups of member schools; (b) two representatives from the State Department of Education; (c) one member representing Virginia State College; (d) one junior high school representative (Womble).” A guidance counselor was also provided to help students sort through issues at school, home and for college preparation. It was the coordinated efforts of Virginia State University staff, teachers, coaches, the Department of Education and parents that made the VIA so successful for 15 years.
- Partial Survey of Future VIA Membership - 1968
- Newsletter - March 1956
- Executive Committee Meeting - 1954
- NAACP Letter about Prince Edward County - April 27, 1961
- Minutes of Second District's Principals Association - November 8, 1966
- Letter regarding merger of Virginia Teacher's Association - April 3, 1967
- Secondary District Principals Association Minutes - January 17, 1967
- Preliminary Survey on Future VIA Membership - 1968
- History of Prince Edward School Desegregation Case by Oliver Hill, Chairman of Legal Staff
- Information about the Field Services Division