Fort Valley State University’s History
Fort Valley State University is one of Georgia’s three public historically black colleges and universities. Located in Fort Valley, Ga., (the seat of Peach County) the institution has educated students for more than a hundred years and remains Georgia’s only 1890 land-grant school.
The university’s beautiful grounds include 1,365 acres of cleared, wooded, developed land, and its main campus incorporates 80 acres. The remaining space is used for agricultural research and future expansion. The campus buildings are a blend of architectural styles from the early 1900s with design features from succeeding decades.
Our mission is to advance the cause of education with an emphasis on a commitment to the community through a concept known as communiversity.
Fort Valley State University started as Fort Valley High and Industrial School in 1895. During that year, three white men and 15 African-American men petitioned Houston County’s Superior Court for a charter to establish a public school for children. The charter was granted on Nov. 5, 1895.
Atlanta University alum John W. Davison became FVHIS’s first principal and guided the institution through its seminal years. To accomplish the school’s long-term goals, it needed financing. Davison began seeking donations from wealthy patrons in the North. In spite of his efforts, FVHIS experienced financial upheaval. The school’s board of trustees hired Henry A. Hunt in 1904, as the second principal, to help the school get back onto a solid, financial footing. Mrs. Florence Johnson Hunt worked equally as hard as her husband, to raise money for the school. She was successful in securing a large donation from the Episcopal Diocese of the State of Ohio; hence, the name of the dormitory for boys, Ohio Hall. Philanthropist Anna Jeanes agreed to donate $5,000 to the institution, to erect a frame school building and a shop. In 1904, Jeanes’ Hall was named in her honor. The patron’s donation was the first of many contributions made to advance African-American educational causes.
Hunt envisioned a grand expansion of FVHIS. The second principal chose to model FVHIS after Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute founded by notable African-American leader Booker T. Washington. He introduced trade courses into the school’s curriculum to attract additional students. The idea worked. Enrollment increased from 1904 to 1938. In 1908, Hunt obtained $25,000 from Collis P. Huntington, a great railroad financier, for the construction of Huntington Hall, a girls’ dormitory. To ensure the institution’s financial stability, FVHIS affiliated itself with the American Church Institute for Negroes for the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1919. The church’s backing financed the construction of Ohio Hall. Additional monies awarded by the Carnegie Foundation in 1925 erected Carnegie Library. Royal C. Peabody provided the funds for the Peabody Trades Building.
FVHIS continued expanding its curriculum throughout the 1920s. A post-high school, baccalaureate year, and later, a teacher’s training program were in place by 1927. Liberal arts courses were also added for students. These additions resulted in the designation of FVHIS as a Junior College.
Fort Valley State College
During the 1930s, FVHIS underwent several name changes. The school became Fort Valley Normal and Industrial School in 1932. Later that same year, Samuel Bishop donated funds for the construction of the school’s first dining hall. In 1939, FVHIS merged with the State Teachers and Agricultural College of Forsyth. The newly-joined schools were named Fort Valley State College. Abruptly, the school severed its Episcopal Church affiliation to become a University System of Georgia member and four-year degree granting institution. Walter Cocking, a renowned college administrator hired by the system, encouraged the Board of Regents to approve the decision. Additionally, Cocking advised the BOR to appoint Horace Mann Bond as FVSC’s first president.