Petersburg and the Atlantic World

Education and Economics, 1950s to Present (March 2008)

Petersburg was devastated when tobacco processing moved south in the 1970s. The combination of this economic shift and civil rights activism engendered a “white flight” evidenced in a dramatic demographic shift. In 1960, the city's population was 40% black and 60% white. By the year 2000, Petersburg had the fifth highest percentage of black residents in the nation: 78% black and 18% white. Many whites moved to neighboring Colonial Heights where the current population is 6% black and 89% white. Petersburg has one of the longest traditions of African American educational achievement and excellence. Historically, Petersburg’s public schools and university system were among the most successful in the nation.
We seek to understand the causes and processes underlying the contemporary reality that Petersburg’s public school system ranks among the worst performing in the country. The pattern is all too familiar: a shrinking urban tax base cannot meet the needs of students who face resource shortages in their homes, neighborhoods, and schools. Adult literacy has fallen below 60%. In order for Petersburg to revitalize, local schools must improve dramatically. VSU is currently engaged with the Petersburg Public School administration, the faith-based Community-Schools Partnership, and the nationally renowned Algebra
Project in efforts to create a more effective learning environment in area schools.


Focus Questions:


Wesley Hogan:

Paul Alkebulan: Where Do We Go from Here? Post-Industrial Race, Class, and Economics in Petersburg

Dirk Philipsen:

Adolph Reed, Jr.: