Bluefield State College is one of the firsthistorically black colleges (HCBUs) to become a predominantly whiteinstitution. The college was opened in1895 as the Bluefield Colored Institute after the expansion of the Morrill Actin 1890 to provide funding for African American colleges from the sale ofpublic lands. US Senator William Mahoodof West Virginia helped to pass the bill that funded its creation.
In the 1880s and 1890s the area of southern West Virginia became heavilypopulated with blacks who migrated there for coal mining jobs. Although mostblack students attended poorly funded segregated public schools or did notattend school at all, African American leaders in the region believed that theColored Institute would provide badly-needed training and would help elevatethe status of their community.
In 1906 Bluefield Colored Institute became certified for teaching, and by 1929it offered courses in other areas as well. The enrollment also grew from 40 students in 1906 to over 200 in1920. The Institute was renamedBluefield State College in 1943 and was accredited in 1947.
Bluefield State College remained a black institution until the 1954 US SupremeCourt ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. West Virginia political leaders, unlike their counterparts in the restof the South, began making plans for integrating the public colleges. Due to its location in the Southern sectionof the state—which had no nearby white colleges—the region’s white studentsbegan to enroll at Bluefield. Attracted by lowtuition and motivated to attend college to enhance their skills because of theloss of mining jobs, white students by the 1970s comprised a majority of the College’sstudents.
Through the 1970s, the faculty and administration remained predominantly blackbut in the 1980s and 1990s, the faculty, administration, and student bodybecame mostly white. By 1998 there wereno African American members of the faculty, and black students were only eightpercent of the entire enrollment of 3,506 students—the lowest percentage sincethe