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Mississippi Valley State

Mississippi Valley State

Mississippi Valley State University (commonly referred to as MVSU or “The Valley”) is a historically black university located in unincorporated Leflore County, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta, near Itta Bena. MVSU is a member- school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

The institution, which opened in 1950, was created by the Mississippi Legislature as Mississippi Vocational College. The legislature anticipated that legal segregation of public education was in danger (and would in four years be declared unconstitutional in the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education the institution, hoping that its existence would draw African-American applicants who might have otherwise applied to attend Mississippi’s premier whites-only institutions—the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Creating separate institutions of higher learning for Mississippi’s black population, the state’s political leaders hoped, would help ease the pressure to integrate the state’s premier universities. To attract the support of those who opposed any government action to provide higher education to blacks, those proposing creation of M.V.C. used the term “vocational” to imply that the institution’s main purpose would be to train blacks to take on blue-collar jobs.
The original legislative proposal would have located M.V.C. in Greenwood, but the white leadership of that city did not like the idea of hosting an institution that would attract young blacks to the area. Thus, the proposed site was moved to Itta Bena. Even that town, however, objected to too close a proximity of a black institution, so the final site was chosen to place the college away from the downtown area, on cheap, uncultivatable land.

In 1964, Mississippi Vocational College was renamed Mississippi Valley State College.
In 1970, a student boycott was organized to protest President White’s administration of the institution. Half the enrolled students of the institution—about 900—were arrested. However, White was ousted as president soon afterward.

In the early 1970s, civil rights leaders continued to protest the inequalities in higher education opportunities offered to whites and blacks in Mississippi. In an effort to defuse some of the criticism, Gov. [William Waller] proposed changing the names of three black institutions from “colleges” to “universities.” Thus, in 1974, the institution was renamed again, as Mississippi Valley State University.
In 1998, the university renamed many of the buildings on campus, except for the ones named after Sillers, Wright, and J. H. White.

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