The history of education related to people of color in West Point, Virginia began before the town was incorporated in 1870. Free Blacks, enslaved Africans and the Indigenous Peoples of the Three Rivers had lived here for generations.
As to a formal educational structure, Beverly Allen Sr. was listed as the owner of a Freedmen’s Bureau school before the town incorporated and prior to his purchase of lot 105 at the corner of contemporary Lee and 3rd Streets in 1870. He and his family were already living here. If you would like to learn more about the history of the lots where the Beverly Allen School stands (1876-1909), read about the taxpayers listed in the King William County Land Book Tax Records.
Do you or a family member have a story you would like to share about the school? Help tell YOUR story and preserve those memories for the next generation.
The focus for this brief introduction is simply 5 reasons every Pointer, Virginian and American should care what happens to the historic Beverly Allen School still standing on 13th Street in West Point, Virginia. Follow us on Facebook and help us advocate for preservation of this historic building! This virtual exhibit will continue to expand as we publish extensive research, but for now our focus is on saving this space.
(1) West Point, Virginia is on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the contributing buildings to that designation is the historic African American Beverly Allen School on 13th Street. The property was purchased last month by the Atlanta-based company WestRock along with at least 3 other lots currently zoned residential in the historic district of the Town of West Point. Although we have contacted the company to ask what their intentions are, we have not received a response. *(Update 2/19/2019–a representative from WestRock in Atlanta responded to our request for information. The representative asserts that they intend to restore the building and are “exploring possible uses for it.” Make sure your voice is heard and stay engaged in the process).
(2) In 1872, Beverly Allen Sr. and George Washington both served as the first African American members of the newly incorporated Town of West Point. Both were early property owners. George Washington lost his business and home however after the Virginia Court of Appeals invalidated his ownership because he did not have civil rights in 1859 to negotiate a contract.
(3) One of the graduates and Valedictorian of the Beverly Allen School was Virginius Bray Thornton III. A founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he was a local and national leader in the Civil Rights Movement; he is included in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Virginius Bray Thornton III completed his undergraduate degree at Virginia Union and in 1961, he was the first African American graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. At Virginia State University, he led the Petersburg sit-in movement.
(4) The Beverly Allen School was at center of the controversy related to school segregation in West Point, Virginia (Dobbins v. Commonwealth 1957). The West Point 29 and the 8 parents arrested and fined were represented by Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson. Their story is included in Margaret Edds’ book We Face the Dawn.
(5) Beverly Allen Jr. graduated from Hampton Institute in 1881. He served as principal and teacher of the African American school at West Point, VA for 35 years. His father was Beverly Allen Sr. referenced above and his mother Harriet White Allen was an African American midwife. It is unclear if when the school was renamed in the 1940s if it was after him or his father–we believe it was both. Their legacy must survive to inspire the next generation. Support us and let’s collaborate to make the invisible visible once more.