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Christiansburg Institute

(140 Scattergood Drive)

Christiansburg Institute began after the Civil War with a mission to educate freed slaves. The school was founded by Captain Charles S. Schaeffer, a Union soldier and Baptist minister from Philadelphia. Working for the Freedmen’s Bureau, Schaeffer came to Christiansburg in 1866 and started teaching twelve former slaves in a rented house. By 1869, the Hill School, as it was called, had grown to include over two hundred students. Beginning in 1870, a Quaker group called the Friends’ Freedmen’s Association began helping Schaeffer fund the school after the Freedmen’s Bureau stopped its support. In the 1880s, Schaeffer turned over control of the school to a completely African American staff. He retired to focus on ministry before his death in 1899. During his time in Southwest Virginia, Schaeffer organized twenty-nine African American churches. The 1885 Hill School and Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church still stand at 570 High Street in Christiansburg.

A new era for the Christiansburg Institute began in 1896 when Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute, became adviser to CI. In 1909, Washington addressed almost 5,000 Christiansburg residents, both white and black. The Christiansburg Institute implemented a curriculum similar to those at Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes, continuing to grow throughout the early twentieth century. The Institute expanded to property at 140 Scattergood Drive, where the 1927 Edgar A. Long Building, named for the principal of the Institute from 1906-1924, still stands. In 1947, the Friends’ Freedmen’s Associations deeded the Institute to the Montgomery County, Radford, and Pulaski County school systems. During the years of segregation in Southwest Virginia, Christiansburg Institute served the educational needs of African American students from up to fifteen counties at a time. Christiansburg Institute closed in 1966 when local public schools integrated.

We encourage you to visit the Christiansburg Institute, Inc. website to learn more!CI Faculty

The first African American faculty of Christiansburg Industrial Institute.

Booker T. Washington at CI

Booker T. Washington addressing a crowd at Christiansburg Institute.

Aerial CI

The campus of Christiansburg Institute, 1963.
(photos courtesy of the D. D. Lester Collection)

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