wsls logo

Christiansburg Institute Inc. honors formerly enslaved students during Juneteenth celebration

The first students at Christiansburg Institute in 1866 were formerly enslaved Black people

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – One Montgomery County organization is bridging the gap between local and U.S. history during a Juneteenth celebration Saturday.

The event will take place on the historic grounds of Christiansburg Industrial Institute, the first high school for Black students in Southwest Virginia.

“The first students at C.I. were formerly enslaved people. C.I. met that need immediately after the Civil War concluded,” said Chris Sanchez, executive director of Christiansburg Institute Inc., the nonprofit preserving the school’s history.

Black students from across the commonwealth were taught trades as well as the basics like math and science. The institute closed in 1966, but it’s legacy is far from forgotten. Especially on Juneteenth, a celebration of liberation, it’s a moment to recognize those first generation of students’ and their freedom.

“The people who were liberated, they were people here in this county, went to C.I. so while it ended in Texas that narrative of liberation extends all across the US to all black people,” Sanchez said.

Before the music and DJ, speakers, and buying from Black-owned vendors begins, the program will honor the Black History that started this campus, the former students still alive today and welcoming a new generation to carry the mantle forward.

“It’s a part of the American story, it’s a part of the American story not everyone wants to talk about but if we’re going to build and we’re going to do that honestly we’ve got foreground that in truth and vulnerability and that’s what we’re doing in C.I. and that’s what you can expect at Juneteenth,” Sanchez said.

The event is Saturday, June 19, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

📢📢Juneteenth 2021 Christiansburg Institute PRESENTED BY THE COALITION: Christiansburg Institute (CI,Inc.), Hill School...

Posted by Christiansburg Institute on Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Rubble and a boarded-up Edgar A. Long Hall is what’s left of the 200-acre campus. In the next several months, Christiansburg Institute Inc. will place educational signs and open a museum at a different location.

The nonprofit is working with Montgomery Museum of History and Art is seeking approval from the town of Christiansburg to put up interpretive storyboards and art to share and celebrate African American history in a public space. For more information and to show your support, click here.


About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.