Christiansburg Institute, Inc. hopes to bring more awareness to Black History in Southwest Virginia

Published: Feb. 26, 2022 at 5:44 PM EST
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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Nestled in an area rich with Black History is a landmark many might not know exists: The Christiansburg Industrial Institute.

“Unfortunately a majority of that history has been under-preserved and under-resourced,” said Chris Sanchez, Christiansburg Institute, Inc.’s Executive Director.

The Christiansburg Institute dates to 1866. Its main focus was providing education to African Americans who were recently freed from slavery.

“Students were bussed in from Floyd, Pulaski, Grayson County. It was a prestigious school as well. The community enjoyed that people were getting this separate but equal education,” said Dan Ideozu, Christiansburg Institute, Inc.’s Archivist.

CI closed when schools across the country became desegregated. Now in 2022, the non-profit’s leaders are fighting to preserve and protect its long history.

“We’re wanting to challenge the narrative of what is the identity in the community and how the stories impact that identity. And if we’re missing a key pillar of this broader story, then we can’t say we’re telling the full story,” said Sanchez.

“There’s a lot of stories that live in this area that we need to celebrate,” said Jenny Nehrt, Christiansburg Institute, Inc.’s curator.

One of CI’s main projects is restoring the Edgar A Long building, named after a key person in its history. It is one of the two surviving buildings of the original almost 200-acre campus.

”The Edgar A Long building was the only one that was named after an African American. So that in and of itself offers a unique honor,” said Sanchez.

“We really envision an interactive museum where you can come. If you don’t know anything about CI, that’s fine, we’ll tell you about it. With all of the beautiful artifacts that we’ve already collected on display,” said Nehrt.

In 2019, the nonprofit restored the roof on the building. Sanchez said next up on the master site plan includes cleaning the inside, along with window and door restoration.

Sanchez said there is a sense of urgency to get the building restored and hopes phases one and two of the six phase process will be done by 2024-2025.

Though progress has been made, leaders feel there is more to be done, which starts with spreading community awareness.

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