Her thoughts — The story of Ingleside Seminary

Published 5:29 pm Friday, May 6, 2022

The education of African Americans in the United States is a history of perseverance and grit with the immense faith in God for support.

Ingleside Seminary had its inception when the Russell Grove School students and staff in Amelia County outgrew their building and land was purchased in Nottoway County near Burkeville for a new school. In 1892 the school, under the name Ingleside Seminary, was financially supported by northern churches, and was built to educate African American girls. Subsequently, in 1894 the school was designated as a teacher training institute by the State Board of Education preparing young Black women to teach all grades including the training schools. The young women educators were age 16 and in high demand since African American schools were cropping up all-around Southside Virginia.

Although there were no secondary education opportunities for women in Amelia County until 1933, many girls lived as boarders at Ingleside. In addition, Ingleside Training Institute offered an accredited course as well as two years of college training for Blacks in 1940.

Eventually, the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church provided funds for the school and it became Ingleside-Fee Memorial Institute. Today, the Burkeville Elementary School is located where Ingleside used to be and the only remains of the original building on-site are one classroom and the pump house.

I believe the character of a school is reflected in the students and staff that grace its halls. Graham Cox Campbell was the head of Ingleside Seminary and Training Institute from 1892-1915 but in 1915 a natural gas explosion occurred and Campbell and two students were killed as well as the school burning to the ground.

Other Campbell family members such as Graham Fulton Campbell also ran the school. Sisters Helen and Jess Campbell along with Henry Campbell were on staff at Ingleside. Another teacher at the Institute was William Horace Ash who regularly solicited funds for the school from his friends at Hampton Institute for reading and other classroom materials.

Several students were graduates of Ingleside Seminary and their stories greatly intrigued me. Margaret Shepperson Lomax wanted to attend school so badly that she took a basket of pears to Ingleside as a tuition payment and so impressed was the staff with her desire they found money for Lomax to attend. She never knew who enabled her to go there to receive her education — Lomax graduated in 1939.

Another alum of the Institute was class of 1912 graduate Maggie Mariah Johnson. In 1900 Malinda A. Hall became a student at Ingleside Seminary after attending Oak Hill Academy graduating in 1904. Johnson went on to teach for about six years as a domestic science teacher and superintendent of the Christian Endeavor Society at Oak Hill Academy. Joylette Roberta Lowe Coleman, a Danville native, graduated and taught school in Virginia. Coleman was the mother of Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician featured in the book and movie Hidden Figures.

Home Economics and music were two of the subjects taught at Ingleside Seminary. Ingleside’s students were industrious in that they helped to raise money for the school by putting on plays and having bazaars to sell various items. Young girls participated in Vacation Bible School Bands competing in activities winning gold, silver and bronze medals for their efforts.

Go online and search the school on HMdb.org and it will display photos of Ingleside and its former alumni. Fortunately, it is on the Civil Rights Education Heritage Trail for us to see the impact on the African American community. I am constantly amazed when I discover history at our back door. Ingleside Seminary and Training Institute serves as an inspiration and a reminder that education is worth fighting for and your determination is key to the outcome of your educational pursuits.

Judy Moore, a tour guide at The Central High Museum lives in Wyllliesburg and can be reached at v5agabond2@gmail.com.