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Mississippi Valley State University (commonly referred to as MVSU or "The Valley.") is a historically black university located in Itta Benamarker, Mississippimarker. MVSU is a member school of the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund.


The institution, which opened in 1950, was created by the Mississippi Legislature as Mississippi Vocational College. The legislature anticipated that legal segregation of public education was in danger (and would in four years be declared unconstitutional in the United States Supreme Courtmarker's decision in Brown v. Board of Education) and created the institution, hoping that its existence would draw African-American applicants who might have otherwise applied to attend Mississippi's premier whites-only institutions—the University of Mississippimarker, Mississippi State Universitymarker, and the University of Southern Mississippimarker. Creating separate institutions of higher learning for Mississippi's black population, the state's political leaders hoped, would help ease the pressure to integrate the state's premier universities. To attract the support of those who opposed any government action to provide higher education to blacks, those proposing creation of M.V.C. used the term "vocational" to imply that the institution's main purpose would be to train blacks to take on blue-collar jobs.

The original legislative proposal would have located M.V.C. in Greenwoodmarker, but the white leadership of that city did not like the idea of hosting an institution that would attract young, ambitious blacks to the area. Thus, the proposed site was moved to Itta Benamarker. Even that town, however, objected to too close a proximity of a black institution, so the final site was chosen to place the college away from the downtown area, on cheap, uncultivatable land.

The first president of the institution, J. H. White, an African-American, sought to reassure the state's political leaders that the institution would not be a center of black agitation. One of his symbolic acts was to name the college's two most important buildings after prominent segregationists Walter Sillers Jr. and Fielding Wright. After the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown decision, state Gov. Hugh L. White invited 90 black leaders to support the idea of voluntary segregation of public education in Mississippi. President White was one of only two at the meeting to support the governor. When a young black man, Clyde Kennard, applied to the all-white Mississippi Southern Collegemarker, President White tried to dissuade him. (Kennard was later framed for his attempts to attend white universities.)

In 1964, Mississippi Vocational College was renamed Mississippi Valley State College.

In 1970, a student boycott was organized to protest President White's administration of the institution. Half the enrolled students of the institution—about 900—were arrested. However, White was ousted as president soon afterward.

In the early 1970s, civil rights leaders continued to protest the inequalities in higher education opportunities offered to whites and blacks in Mississippi. In an effort to defuse some of the criticism, Gov. Bill Waller proposed changing the names of three black institutions from "colleges" to "universities." Thus, in 1974, the institution was renamed again, as Mississippi Valley State University.

In 1998, the university renamed many of the buildings on campus, except for the ones named after Sillers, Wright, and J. H. White.

Student activities


MVSU's colors are kelly green and white. Their nickname is the Delta Devil for men's teams and Devilettes for women's teams. MVSU sports teams participate in NCAA Division I (I-AA for football) in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). Famous alumni include NFL wide receiver Jerry Rice.

The Mississippi Valley State University Department of Athletics currently sponsors men's intercollegiate baseball, football, basketball, cross country, golf, tennis and track along with Women's Intercollegiate basketball, soccer, volleyball, cross country, golf, softball, bowling and track.

Notable alumni


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