Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 119 / Number 3
Race, Politics, and Education in Tidewater Virginia: Christopher Newport College and the Shoe Lane Controversy of 1960–63
- Phillip Hamilton, pp. 244–75
In the 1960s, the civil rights movement occurred at the same time American higher educational institutions expanded in both size and number. At times, these two different developments intersected. Indeed, municipal leaders periodically established new colleges in controversial locations, oftentimes with the aim not to improve access to higher education but to keep African Americans out of predominately white sections of communities. The struggle to establish a permanent campus for Christopher Newport College in Newport News, Virginia, provides an example of this trend. In 1961, the city council of Newport News sought to place the new two-year branch college of William and Mary upon a semi-rural plot of land along a street named Shoe Lane, which was located in a predominately white section of town. Owned by a small group of African American landowners who contemplated developing the tract into suburban houses for middle-class blacks, they believed the city council was using the new college to force them off their properties. Therefore, the African American community fought the seizure of their lands by pointing out that alternative locations existed and charging that racism motivated city leaders. The controversy ended in 1963 only when the city seized the properties through eminent domain.