Editor’s note: Lewis Longenecker, a history teacher at Cumberland Middle School, has worked with his classes to research and sponsor proposals for historical markers across Virginia. He had his class write this report on their latest project.
Last school year, the National Education Association Foundation awarded a grant to Cumberland Middle School to fund a Virginia Historical Roadside Marker. Seventh grade students in Power-Up (Enrichment Class) conducted research, completed primary source activities, collaboratively wrote the marker text and fact checked the proposed Lucyville Historic Marker text with primary sources. It resulted in the Seventh Grade US History II Students’ successful application for the “Lucyville” Community. On June 15, 2023, Virginia Department of Historic Resources formally approved the following historic marker text and location.
Sponsor: Cumberland Middle School
Locality: Cumberland County
Proposed Location: Trents Mill Road (Route 622) at the intersection with Oak Hill Road
The Rev. Reuben T. Coleman, enslaved at birth, became an entrepreneur after the Civil War. About 1.5 miles north of here he established Lucyville, named for his daughter, which in the 1890s featured a bank, post office, newspaper, and mineral springs resort that drew visitors from afar. Coleman, who challenged segregation, was the pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church and a local Republican leader and officeholder. His brother-in-law Shed Dungee, formerly enslaved, represented the area in the House of Delegates (1879-1882) and aligned with the Readjusters, a biracial coalition that achieved major reforms and supported public education. Many Lucyville residents left during the Great Migration.
Recently two students were asked about the significance of learning experiences involving local history and the soon to be unveiled Lucyville Historic Roadside Marker. Eighth grader, Roger Jamerson, believes, “The Lucyville Story is important because of its role in the history of Cumberland County.” Seventh grader Audrey Dickstien stated, “It helps to discover history not only of what you learn in history class but what is the history all around you to discover and what the world around you used to be like and what has changed over time.”
This school year, current seventh and eighth grade students are speaking at field trips and planning the Lucyville Historical Marker Unveiling. First semester seventh grade students are collaboratively writing the text for a series of Story Maps leading up to the roadside marker unveiling.
The following portion of the article is a summary of the first in the series is titled “Thedore T. Coleman: A star in football, a star in teaching and a historical role model,” collaboratively written by (pictured from left to right) Barry Jones, Audrey Dickstein, Christian Recktenwald, Michael Darpino, Wyatt Talmage Xavier Bland, William DuFrain, Jeremiah Brown, Nathan Paschall, Alana Jackson-Lewis, Nikki Brandt, Baylee Haas and Makayla Robinson.
R.T. Coleman’s son, James Coleman, inherited much of his father’s property. James and his wife Ida Trent Coleman fifth child was Theodore T. Coleman.
Theodore Coleman’s family included numerous educators. In 1910, Theodore Coleman was 8 years old attending a private school taught by his uncle Grant Dungee (started teaching in his late teens at the Benson Springs School and taught at several other one room public schools in Cumberland County, VA). Nannie Dungee Finney, his aunt, and Robert L. Finney, another uncle, worked at Cumberland County Public Schools. His cousins, Ernest A. Finney Sr., Mary Finney Flournoy, Nannie Finney McDaniel, Robert A. Finney, Claude Finney (born 1913), Edward N. Finney (born 1914) and Otelia Finney Daring (born 1917) were teachers or administrators at various educational levels.
The 1920 census showed Theodore Coleman resided at the Hampton Institute. The Hampton Institute was established in 1868. Hampton’s first college president was former Union General Samuel Chapman Armstrong. Hampton’s major programs were teacher training, agriculture, and industrial trades. Booker T. Washington was a leader in education as the first President of the Tuskegee Institute. Washington also worked with Julius Rosenwald to build African American School Houses throughout the south. It was called the Rosenwald Foundation. Several Rosenwald Schools were built in Cumberland County. Theodore Coleman played football at Hampton Institute. He started on defense and offense. In 1922, Hampton won the CIAA Championship and were named the Black College Football National Champions by the S.B.N. Poll. In 1923, he was named Team Captain and was All-CIAA at Right Tackle.
Theodore Coleman taught at Virginia State College after he graduated from Hampton. Theodore Coleman briefly worked his trade, auto mechanics in Philadelphia. In West Virginia, Theodore Coleman taught at the high school level in Bluefield and Elkhorn.
In 1927, Theodore Coleman married Ida M. Redmond, a graduate of Syracuse University. Syracuse, as a New York public educational facility, was integrated by New York Governor and future President, Theodore Roosevelt. Ida Coleman taught at Bluefield State Teachers College (now Bluefield State University).
Theodore Colman began teaching at Armstrong High School (named after Union General Samuel Chapman Armstrong) in 1938. Theodore Coleman taught at Armstong into the 1960s.
For the entire StoryMap please visit https://arcg.is/195WLy. Stay tuned for the next installment, Ernest A. Finney Sr. and Ernest A. Finney Jr.: From Lucyville VA to Columbia SC, Educational and Governmental Leadership.