• Note: Much of the history of the Richmond Public Schools was recorded in the context of a segregated society, and the reader should readily discern between pre- and post-desegregation observations. The terms "black," "colored," "Negro," and "white" in this booklet should not be considered offensive as they have been used according to the custom of the particular period. Since 1962, the division has omitted such racial designations from its reports and publications.

Richmond Colored (High) & Normal School (Armstrong)

  • The Freedmen's Bureau gave financial aid to the erection of a school at 12th & Leigh Streets, to be used for both normal and high school classes. This school preceded City-financed secondary education for colored children; it was occupied in April 1873, with Mr. Manly as principal. One Armstrong historian has written that "...a large part of the labor was donated by colored 'mechanics' and laborers...in June of that year the first class was graduated from the Colored High and Normal School...From 1873 to 1906 the school underwent a gradual change, making it more like a high school than a normal school."

    On June 27, 1876, a final deed of conveyance recorded this facility as a gift to the City by the Richmond Educational Association; the name "Richmond Colored Normal School" was affixed to the institution. The gift was valued at $25,000 and included brick building, lot, furniture, and school apparatus. Preceding the conveyance, an agreement of September 1875 specified as an essential point: '1t is also a condition of this contract that the present principal of the said school shall be retained as principal of the same for two years, should he desire to remain so long, but his service as such shall be without expense to the city..."

    The 1876-77 enrollment was reported as 35 fifth primary (senior class), 33 fourth grammar, 44 third grammar, and 86 normal school. There were no graduates from this school in 1878-79, when the course of study was extended, and in 1881­82, when modern languages and Latin were added. Several annual reports include the statement: 'The Post-Graduate Course at the Normal School was established September, 1903. Up to September, 1908, there had been 68 graduates."

    The building at 12th & Leigh continued in use until condemned for school purposes during the session of 1908-09, at which time the teachers and pupils were moved to Baker School. (The building at 12th & Leigh was used by the school system's department of buildings and grounds for a number of years, eventually becoming the property of the Medical College of Virginia.)

    In September 1909, the normal and high school programs moved to Leigh School which had been closed as a white school. (This building, at 21 East Leigh Street, was later renamed Booker T. Washington.) The high school was then named Armstrong while the normal school was variously referenced as Armstrong High & Training School, Armstrong Normal School, Armstrong High & Normal School, and the Training School.

    Superintendent Chandler wrote in his June 1912 annual report: ''Beginning with September 15, 1912, by action of the School Board, the Training School connected with the Armstrong High School for colored pupils, was made a two-year course." In 1915, when Armstrong's all-white faculty was replaced with colored teachers (reportedly five men and ten women), there were 47 normal school students. The Armstrong historian's notes state: ''In 1917, the high and normal schools were separated in name as well as in course of study. At the same time the Normal School became accredited. This meant that its graduates would receive the Normal Professional Teacher's Certificate which was then offered by the State of Virginia"

    From 1915-33, Armstrong Normal School was under the direction of Elizabeth W. Winston, Armstrong's assistant principal. In his annual report for June 30, 1917, First Assistant Superintendent A. H. Hill wrote: 'The removal of the Training School to the Monroe building is a good thing for the Training School ... is much more convenient for purposes at observation, and Miss Winston's influence is much greater with the students under these circumstances." (A former principal has observed that many of Richmond's best elementary school teachers received their training under Miss "Lizzie" Winston and the staff of certified teachers at Monroe School.)

    Reporting on Armstrong Normal in June 1923, the Director of High Schools wrote: 'The school has been heretofore housed in part of the Monroe building. At the beginningat next session, it will be moved to the new Armstrong High School building, but the practice classes will remain in Monroe." Armstrong soon reached an overcrowded condition in its new building at Prentis & Leigh Streets, and the Normal School was again housed across the street at Monroe.

    Armstrong Normal School was discontinued in 1933; it was deemed unnecessary due to the location of Virginia Union University in Richmond and the State's operation of a "most creditable" teacher training institution for colored teachers.

    Principals:
    1876-1878 Rabza Morse Manly
    1878-1884 Mary Elizabeth Knowles
    1884-1886 Rabza Morse Manly
    1886-1892 Samuel T. Beach
    1892-1899 George F. Merrill
    1899-1905 James C. Harwood
    1905-1909 Samuel D. Turner
    1909-1933 (Armstrong Principals)

    See:
    Armstrong High School
    Booker T. Washington School