Virginia Marie Cabell Randolph

Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Virginia Marie Cabell Randolph, 1876-1962

By Kelly Marino, Sacred Heart University

Virginia Marie Cabell was born in 1876 in Amherst County, VA to the couple Cassie Melvin and Patrick Cabell. Virginia's father was a slave who had gained his freedom because of his master's son's conviction that slavery was a sin and would block his father from Heaven. Virginia claimed that her maternal great-grandfather served in the American Revolution and her paternal grandfather in the Confederate Army. Her mother introduced her to the world of public service, encouraging her to help the sick and elderly in the city by facilitating donations. She completed the teacher-training course at the Richmond Colored Normal School and had a lengthy career as a teacher. She married William H. Randolph, a local attorney, in 1918. The couple had no children and were divorced in the 1930s.

Virginia Randolph worked as a teacher at several different locations including Jackson Street Elementary School, Payne Elementary School, and Jackson Street High School. The 1920 and 1930 censuses recorded her as married but she lived alone in both years. In 1920 she was recorded as a public school teacher, but in 1930 and 1940 no occupation was noted. She owned her own home, valued in 1930 at $2,000 and in 1940 at $1400. After she retired, she became a Notary Public. In 1950, at the age of 74, she still lived in Lynchburg and was recorded as divorced and keeping house.

While the census failed to record Randolph's lengthy career as a teacher, a 1947 article noted she was entering "her fifty-fifth year as a teacher." At this date she was supervising teachers in twelve schools in Henrico County. She had begun her teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, but helped raise funds to see that school replaced first by a 4-room building and then by an 8-room school.

Randolph is most known for her community engagement work. She first helped elderly black neighbors and then became involved in more organized service. Randolph established the Woman's Community Club in 1922 and later the Community House in 1933 in Lynchburg to help African Americans in need. The facility operated out of her home at 812 Eighth Street and offered cultural and educational programs to local blacks. African Americans could learn basic skills, such as cooking, cleaning, sewing, knitting, and crocheting, and also build characteristics like self-confidence and self-reliance. At the House, visitors could learn about the law, home ownership, and money management and connect with cooks, maids, or chauffeurs. They could pick up extra food or clothing. Young people could find volunteer opportunities, and boys and girls could find books, games, and magazines. There were rest and recreation rooms for adults. The Community House was sometimes called Lynchburg's "Hull House" for its social work initiatives and went by the motto "progressive is Service through co-operation". Lynchburg's black residents were encouraged to join the woman's club or a department to help.�

Believing in the importance of women's right to vote, Randolph was one of the first black women to register in 1920 in Lynchburg with her neighbors Lugie Ferguson and Norma Clayton

Bacchus. She was close friends with Ferguson and the two women lived next door to each other.�

She died in 1962 at age 86, having gained a reputation as an "outstanding public servant." Both women are buried at Lynchburg's Old City Cemetery next to each other's family plots.�


Federal Manuscript Censuses of Lynchburg, 1920-1950, accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.

"Black Schools and Colleges in Lynchburg, A Digital Exhibit." Lynchburg Museum. Accessed July 16, 2022.

Holowchak, M. Andrew and David M. A Biography of Lynchburg: City with a Soul. Lynchburg (VA): Cambridge Scholars Publisher, 2021.

Julienne, Marianne E. "‘Really and Truly a Citizen': Virginia Women Register To Vote In 1920." The UncommonWealth (Library of Virginia). September 16, 2020.�

Long, Savannah. "Virginia Cabell Randolph—Founder of ‘Lynchburg's Hull House'". Old City Cemetery Museums & Arboretum. April 2015.�

"Mrs. Randolph, Head of Lynchburg Center, Dies." New Journal and Guide. November 10, 1962, 3.

Semmes McCormick, "Milestone in Life of Virginia Randolph," Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8 June 1947, p. 70.

Simms, Hunter. "First Three Lynchburg African American Women Voters." Lynchburg Museum. February 12, 2019.�

Consulted with and used Information from Ted Delaney, Lynchburg Museum Director, Chief Public History Officer, Lynchburg, VA.

Consulted with and used Information from Marianne E. Julienne, Education and Outreach Department, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.

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