A detail from an article on the front page of the February 15, 1882, edition of the Richmond Daily Whig reports on a speech delivered by Mr. A. W. Harris, the African American representative from Dinwiddie County in the House of Delegates. Harris spoke in favor of a bill that would establish and provide funding for the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University) for African American students, and he refuted arguments set out by Representative James H. Skinner of Augusta County, who opposed the bill. Skinner insisted that the African American school should have white teachers and oversight by a white board of visitors.
Harris pointed out the paradox of Skinner's position: "'he approves of the clause which makes this a school for the exclusive education of colored persons,' and yet he desires to mix the races to the extent of putting white teachers in colored schools, when nothing is to be gained thereby." Harris insisted that a white person who had nothing to do with blacks otherwise, would have no genuine interest in African American education and that he would teach his students "simply in a routine manner … to draw his salary."
The school was incorporated and funded by the state, and Harris served as a member of the board of visitors from 1882 until 1885.
Citation: Richmond Daily Whig. Newspaper Virginia Richmond. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.