The most famous Holtzclaw founded the first black college in Mississippi

William Henry Holtzclaw, founder of the Utica Institute, Mississippi

William Henry Holtzclaw, 1876-1943, founder of the Utica Institute

William Henry Holtzclaw, born during the centennial year of the nation that brought his slave ancestors from Africa, is arguably the most famous of my ancestors.

Nearly two hundred years after the first Holtzclaws arrived in Virginia, William, son of a slave, founded the Utica Institute in northern Mississippi, the first school of higher education for blacks in Mississippi.

On Sept. 12, President Obama declared the week of Sept. 12-18 as National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week. White House-sponsored events were scheduled to raise awareness of and support the efforts of the nation’s 105 historically black colleges. The week’s events are part of a conference organized by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

African-American Holtzclaws do not appear in the scholarly geneology of the Holtzclaws in America, published at the University of Richmond in the 1930s. But among the hundreds of Holtzclaw families that scattered throughout the Piedmont and the Deep South in the years following the arrival of Jacob Holtzclaw and his two sons in the Germanna settlement in northern Virginia in 1714, census records, sadly, indicate that some had become wealthy enough to own slaves. So it’s not surprising that the line(s) of African-American Holtzclaws emerged during Reconstruction, especially in Alabama and Georgia.

I discovered William Henry Holtzclaw’s book, a special Bicentennial edition, at the library at North Carolina State University in 1978, about a year after my daughter was born.

The Black Man’s Burden
by William Henry Holtzclaw
Principal of the Utica Normal and Industrial Institute for the Training of Colored Young Men and Young Women, Utica Institute, Mississippi, 1915

from the introduction by
Booker T. Washington [author of White Man's Burden]
Principal of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama:

“Among the students who entered Tuskegee Institute in the fall of 1890 was a young man from Roanoke, Alabama. Like most of the students who came to use in those early days, he was very poor, and in order to make his way he found it necessary to enter the night school…He had not been in school very long, however, before he succeeded in attracting the attention of his teachers by the earnestness which he displayed, both in the work to which he was assigned during the day and in his studies in the class room at night….This book is the story of that young man’s life….[a] book of inspiration…[that] shows what pluck and patience and understanding can do, in the face of many difficulties and discouragements, to establish schools that will not only instruct, but will direct and inspire the masses of our people in their efforts for better things….The book that Mr. Holtzclaw has written…is the story not merely of an individual, or of a school, but it is at the same time a very important chapter in the history of Negro education.” – Booker T. Washington

From the Booker T. Washington papers, 1906 (University of Illinois):

“William Henry Holtzclaw, born in the log cabin of a sharecropping family near Roanoke, Ala., in 1874 or 1876, was the perfect disciple of the founder of Tuskegee. A regular field hand at the age of nine, he was determined to improve his education and his lot. Beginning in 1890 in the A preparatory class of the Tuskegee night school, he worked his way through to graduation in 1898, working as a printer as soon as he had learned the trade in the Tuskegee shop. A brother and sister followed him to the Institute. After his father’s death midway through his course, Holtzclaw taught school for a time to support his family, but returned to complete his education. Turning down an offer to teach at Tuskegee, he taught for four years at Snow Hill Industrial Institute in Alabama, and then founded his own school in Mississippi, Utica Normal and Industrial Institute, on the Tuskegee model. Beginning in a brush arbor in 1902, he gradually built a school with aid from the Slater Fund and northern donors. Most of his teachers were Tuskegee graduates, as was his wife, who had charge of the girls’ industries. Utica was a mirror of Tuskegee, both on campus and in its extension services to the surrounding black rural people. Continuing his self-improvement, Holtzclaw earned a master’s degree at the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1908, and attended Harvard summer sessions for a decade. In 1915 he wrote The Black Man’s Burden, which emphasized his civilizing mission in “darkest Mississippi.”

Holtzclaw served as president of the Utica Institute until his death in 1943.

In 2003, Utica Junior College (the Utica campus of what had evolved into Hinds Community College, serving five counties) celebrated its centennial, including the dedication of the William Henry Holtzclaw library.

The theme for the celebration was, “Embracing the Legacy, Upholding the Promise.” The school logo reflects this theme and founding date in the outlying border of the circle. Displayed in the circle’s center is the bell tower, one of the Utica Campus’s oldest remaining structures, “which symbolizes the start of the school and the freedom to educate African Americans and eventually, a diverse student body.”

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About mountain barry

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., I grew up in a beautiful small town, where I could bicycle to the local golf course and to the Buffalo Bills training camp. My dad was from Kentucky and was a Naval officer in WW II. My mom was from a similar small town and could beat my dad at golf. I started my first publication, a weekly newspaper, in 9th grade, and have been at it ever since: college newspaper, graduate school, college press service, daily newspapers in New York, North Carolina and Kansas, business journals in Kansas and California; also corporate communications/p.r. in Kansas and the SF Bay Area. I have two beautiful children, one extraordinary grandson, three remarkable stepchildren and a patient, loving wife who also happens to be an eBay trading assistant. My dogs, cat, gardens and the basketball goal in the driveway round out the picture of my home in a small town in the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where mornings are foggy and afternoons are sunny.
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42 Responses to The most famous Holtzclaw founded the first black college in Mississippi

  1. Linnea Nichols says:

    Do you know anything more about the genealogy of William Henry Holtzclaw? I’d be very interested in finding it out as I’m a Holtzclaw myself.

    This post was very interesting — he was a highly intelligent and motivated relative! One to be proud of!

    • Editions of The Black Man’s Burden can be found for sale in Amazon.com, but there isn’t much geneology in there, unfortunately. There is more information on the Utica Junior College/Hinds Community College Web site (and perhaps more in their college library) about his parents and his children and grandchildren. The Holtzclaw Family, the scholarly geneology of the family that traces its roots to the first settlers in the Germanna colony in northern Virginia more than 50 years before the American Revolution, includes nothing of William Henry, nor (my guess) probably (sadly) none of the African-American lines of the Holtzclaw family. (See my other comment, plus an earlier post, on “Historical Market, Warrenton VA.” The tricentennial of the Germanna colony is in the Warrenton area in 2014, and there is information about the Holtzclaws in the Web site of the Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies, and also a Holtzclaw Web site.
      If you give me the name(s) of any of your Holtzclaw relatives born before 1935, I can look them up in the University of Richmond geneology. Unfortunately, if they are African-American, we may come up empty. (Sounds like a new book or Web site waiting to be written!)

      • Rev. Buckley: How fantastic to hear from a relative of a teacher at Utica! All I know about the school I have referenced in the links and book titles in my other comment here. My own great grandfather, named Kunkel (my grandmother’s father) was one of the founders of Eastern Kentucky State University, in Richmond, KY. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me. God Bless.

  2. Rev. Dr. Lillian J. Buckley says:

    Dear Mr. Barry: My great grandfather, Mr. William Walker taught music at the school the Utica Normal and Industrial Institute. I do not have a lot of information regarding the specifics (the exacts dates). I do have a couple of photos where my great grandfather is posing with other teachers and with a group of students. My grandmother, Lillian Jane Walker (1899 to 1979) was a student at the school and was standing by him in the photo.

    I was thrilled to find your article. Do you have any other info about the school and any info regarding my great grandfather who I believe taught music?

    My mother, Jewel Buckley, granddaughter of William Walker, married a sailor in 1943 and eventually ended up in Kittery, Maine where I was born and raised and still reside. I am a musician, ordained pastor and a postmaster. I graduated from Bates College (undergrad), Harvard University (graduate school) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (graduate school). As you can see, the values instilled in my family at the Utica Normal school have remained with us over the years.

    Nice to be able to write to you.

    • Mary Walker says:

      I saw the comment from Dr Buckley, if you are Sissy, I’m your cousin, Dolly. Your mom is my first cousin and I last saw her when I lived in Boston as a Delta flight attendant. Your brothers are Chester, Butch and Tim. your grandmother was my Aunt Sister and I still have dreams about her and her house for some odd reasons. My dad is Vertis, same name as your Uncle Noon and cousin.
      Mary Walker (Dolly Dimples……..)

    • Jerry Zolten says:

      Question…Any idea if the Mississippi Jubilee Quartet who recorded for Paramount in 1927 was affiliated with UNII??

      • Verna Julimairis Hayes says:

        The Utica Jubilee Singers and the Mississippi Jubilee Quartet are not the same.

  3. Aaron Holtzclaw says:

    Hey I’m a Holtzclaw, I need more information too pertaining to the depth of Holtzclaw ancestry and whether there we’re any relations with native americans and Holtzclaws.

    • Hi, Aaron.
      To put it briefly, there is a scholarly Holtzclaw geneology published in the 1930s by the University of Richmond that traces the Holtzclaws in America back to Germany in the 16th century. A father and two sons came to Virginia in 1714 with other German immigrants to develop the mining industry here. They built a homestead in what was called Germanna, which is now an historical landmark in Farquier County, VA, then gradually dispersed into Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas, then the Deep South, then the Midwest by the early 19th century. Descendants of the first Holtzclaw immigrants fought in the Revolutionary War, and on both sides in the Civil War. “The Holtzclaws” geneology traces all descendants, but makes no references to marriages or offspring with indigenous people (Native Americans), and includes none of the African-American Holtzclaws, who lived mostly in the Deep South. See the other postings in this blog for more information and links to other sources. Good Luck! p.s. If you know of a Holtzclaw relative who was born before 1934, e-mail me his or her name, and I will look him/her up in “the book.” My e-mail is barry_holtzclaw@hotmail.com. p.p.s. A big 300th anniversary of the founding of the Germanna colony will be held in 2014.

  4. verna Julimairis Hayes says:

    I am the granddaughter of WIlliam Henry Holtzclaw. I was born on the Utica Institute campus.
    I was excited to find this article. Can you tell me how you are related to William Henry Holtzclaw?

    • Anthony Thompson says:

      I’m not sure if you would recieve this anytime soon, but my Name is Anthony Thompson and I am doing research on Holtzclaw and the Utica Institute as a graduate student at Florida A&M University. I wanted to know if you could help me find any primary documents pertaining to the early years of the institution, especially anything related to the curriculum or teaching records. my Email address is anthony2.thompson@famu.edu.

  5. Mary Walker says:

    You’re a Holtzclaw.  The founder of what was Utica institute was cofounded with my grandfather, William Walker. His, Holtzclaw’s, son, William, was someone I grew up calling Mr. Bill. I’m from Utica, which is not in northern Mississippi but more central, less than 30 miles from Jackson and still very much in Hinds County. My family’s property line is adjacent to the Holtzclaw property.  Sadly my mom past about 16 months ago and she would have known about what happened to Mr Bill. I do remember her telling me that he did pass away, but I can’t remember any children he might have had as they would have been much older than me but seem to remember a son, Billy Jr. I’ll ask my brother who resides in Mississippi. He might remember.
    I saw the comment from Dr Buckley, if you are Sissy, I’m your cousin, Dolly. Your mom is my first cousin and I last saw her when I lived in Boston as a Delta flight attendant. Your brothers are Chester, Butch and Tim.
    M J Walker

    • Verna Julimairis Hayes says:

      I find this headline misleading. This was not the first black college in Mississippi. Rust College was founded in 1866, Tougaloo was founded in 1869, Alcorn was founded in 1871, and Jackson State was founded in 1877. Utica Institute was founded by my mother’s father in 1903. Even Mount Hermon Female Seminary (now defunct) was founded in 1875.

      There was a question about his youngest son, William Henry Holtzclaw, Jr.,mother’s brother. He is dead but his wife, my aunt, still lives in Jackson, Mississippi. His youngest daughter, Patricia Houseworth, lives in Jackson too. William Henry Holtzclaw, III (Billy) lives in California. Marjorie, his oldest, lives in a suburb of Washington, D.C. Bernadine lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Frances lives in California. I’m not sure where Sidney lives.

      I hope this clear up some things. I have lots of information about my grandfather’s family. Ask away.

      • Thank you so much, Verna. My account was based strictly on documents related to William Henry Holtzclaw, and the headline clear was innacurate, based on your references. I don’t think it diminishes his contributions. Your references show the brave intensity of efforts by African-Americans in the most apartheid of US states to build communities through education and self-reliance, against huge odds. Do you have any information about his family origins, 1780-1840 period? The black Holtzclaws were invisible in the family geneology published in Virginia in the 1930s, and likewise I believe there little if anything about them in the growing historial archives about descendants of the Germanna settlement in Northern Virginia, of which the Holtzclaws were one of the original families. Certainly it would be great if information you have could be shared with the Germanna Foundation prior to the 300-year anniversary of the settlement in 2014. See The Germanna Foundation in Facebook for contact information. Do I have your permission to post your response on my Facebook page? I am personally interested in a more complete picture of my ancestry not just out of historical curiosity: One of my grandsons is African-American, and I want him to know about the rich heritage, black and white, of his family.

      • Verna Julimairis Hayes says:

        Angee, thanks for the facts. They make sense. I’m not an archivist, but am interested in knowing the truth. I appreciate your work.
        Mary, I was not born in that huge house. That was my grandfather’s house. My brother was born there. My parent’s house was destroyed in a tornado in 1935, five weeks before he was born, and they were still living with my grandfather when the baby came.
        The house you mentioned is (was) at the top of a T formed by two streets (roads). The top bar is on the south and runs east and west; the long part of the T runs north and south. The main part of the campus is along the right (west) side of the long bar and along the right (west) side of the top bar of the T. My birthplace is on left (east) side of the top bar. When I was on the campus in May and June of 2010, my birthplace was still inhabited and in relatively good condition. Unfortunately my grandfather’s house was falling in and vegetation was growing in and out of what was left of it. It appeared to be beyond the restoration stage even though there was talk of raising funds to do so.
        Mountain Barry, you may post my comments on Facebook if you see the need. what is your user name? Is it Mountain barry? I’m on facebook as Verna Julimairis Hayes.

      • Facebook ID: Barry Holtzclaw

        > Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2013 22:15:34 +0000 > To: barry_holtzclaw@hotmail.com >

      • Mary Walker says:

        Verna hi and you are correct, it was not the first black college in Mississippi and even today it is a junior or community college, not a 4 year college. Oddly enough, two of the principals of Utica Institute, then Utica Jr, College, were back-to-back presidents of Alcorn, James D Boyd, then Walter Washington. Washington, at some point, was national president of Alpha Phi Alpha.
        Though born in the Mississippi delta, I was raised and grew up in Utica. I attended high school there, headed off to Tougaloo College, Marymount Manhattan and Columbia University. Bennie Thompson, the state congressional representative, attended Utica as well as Beverly Wade Hogan, president of Tougaloo. I was somewhat amazed as to how I stumbled across this site. I’m resident in Nigeria and was reading a novel whose characters are in Holly Springs Mississippi and decided to check the history of Utica. Voila!!! Then I saw a 2nd cousin’s comments.
        Verna, were you born in that house that was somewhat off campus, but it would have faced the Bell Tower, it was a two-story building. Brick or stone. I remember it was grey and so imposing. And your immediate neighbors would have been the Gettis’, Mildred and Merrill. Same road had the Davis family, he was the town’s blacksmith and directly next door was your Uncle Bill’s house. I do remember the names Patricia, Marjorie and Sidney from my mom.
        I do hope the school has reached out to you for historical references for the library. I have heard that George Barnes who was my 10th grade geometry teacher is the administrator of the campus now. I’d be happy to try to get an email address for him. I do not know what else to call him, as I do not understand the new structure of the consolidations. When I was at home for our 25th High School reunion it was not in Utica, but another campus that I had to hunt for………

      • Angee says:

        While the headline is misleading, Utica Institute may be the oldest educational institution founded by African Americans for African Americans in Mississippi.
        Rust College was founded by the Methodist Church
        Tougaloo College was founded by the American Missionary Association and did not have it first African American president until the 1960s.
        Alcorn is the United States’ oldest land-grant institution founded by the federal Morrill Land Grant Act
        Jackson State University was founded by the American Baptist Home Mission Society and first two presidents were White.
        Mount Hermon Female Seminary was founded by Sarah Ann Dickey, a white woman from Ohio.
        My name is Angela Stewart and I serve as archivist at the Margaret Walker Center in Jackson, Mississippi and my father is a proud graduate of Utica Institute.

      • Thanks so much for this info, Angee!….and for the great work you do!

      • Anthony Thompson says:

        I’m not sure if you would recieve this anytime soon, but my Name is Anthony Thompson and I am doing research on Holtzclaw and the Utica Institute as a graduate student at Florida A&M University. I wanted to know if you could help me find any primary documents pertaining to the early years of the institution, especially anything related to the curriculum or teaching records. my Email address is anthony2.thompson@famu.edu.

    • Anthony Thompson says:

      That would be the best angle of research if I could learn about the cofounder of the school! I’m not sure if you would recieve this anytime soon, but my Name is Anthony Thompson and I am doing research on Holtzclaw and the Utica Institute as a graduate student at Florida A&M University. I wanted to know if you could help me find any primary documents pertaining to the early years of the institution, especially anything related to the curriculum or teaching records. my Email address is anthony2.thompson@famu.edu.

  6. This is a wonderful — now international — exchange! Holtzclaws connecting across continents and generations and ethnicities….I love it.

  7. Anthony Thompson says:

    I’m not sure if you would recieve this anytime soon, but my Name is Anthony Thompson and I am doing research on Holtzclaw and the Utica Institute as a graduate student at Florida A&M University. I wanted to know if you could help me find any primary documents pertaining to the early years of the institution, especially anything related to the curriculum or teaching records. my Email address is anthony2.thompson@famu.edu.

    • Anthony,
      Unfortunately, other than the autobiography of William H. Holtzclaw, it’s all secondary sources for me. But Verna Hayes and Lillian Buckley (see comments on this blog) may be able to help you. When you complete, please send it to us?!
      Thanks!

  8. Hi, all. I just learned through an obituary the 2010 locations of the grandsons of William H. Holtzclaw: William H.Holtzclaw, III, of San Bernardino, CA, and Sidney Holtzclaw of Fredericksburg, VA

  9. Jerry Finley says:

    Wow! guys!, this is a lot of history; I started school at W.H. Holtzclaw in Crystal Springs, Ms, back in 1960. In 1970 the schools there integrated, and I graduated from Crystal Springs Consoldated School in 1972. Wow!, we had some very tough teachers there, and a very tough principle! We had very good sport teams, and I was so…disappointed when we had to leave that school, and transfer. Thanks Guys!

    • This is the first I heard that there also was a high school named after WH…so tragic that Mississippi reacted to an integration order by removing the name of an historic educator. I’d like to think that 50 years later they would preserve the name and honor WH Holtzclaw by putting his name on the building… There’s still time to right the wrong Crystal Springs!

  10. sandra lanier-taylor says:

    My name is Sandra Lanier-Taylor. I was doing a search today on the history of Utica Institute and my great grandfather William Walker. You have know idea how excited I was to find this article and the responses from Dr. Buckley (“Sissy”) and Mary Walker. Ms Walker, we have never met. My father is Virtis Lanier, Sr. (Uncle Noon) and I am his youngest daughter. Do you have any additional information on William Walker? It would be greatly appreciated. So great to be in contact with you! I have always wanted to do more research on the family but didn’t know where to start.

  11. I’m the administrator( and owner of the archives) of Eyes Are The Window to the Soul: Collected Images of African Americans on facebook and would like to share a rare Utica Institute faculty photo from 1905-1906. It will be posted shortly and I’m seeking help in identifying others beside the legendary William Henry Holtzclaw. Please visit the site and help out. It’s very important to recognize the legacies of the important educators.!!!!!

  12. Sophia S. L. MMarshall says:

    I am so glad to see this conversation. My name is Dr. Sophia S.L. Marshall. I am the former Director of the Teacher Education Preparation Program at Hinds Community College Utica Campus formerly Utica Institute. Before leaving there in 2012 and returning to Tougaloo College, Jean Greene, the head librarian for the campus, Dr. Shirley Davis, the Dean of Instruction and I create a plan to continue the legacy and rebuild the mansion. The plan included ways to explore the impact of the campus and create ways to mirror that success
    . The campus is facing challenges, however it is gaining new momentum under the leadership of one of its alum,Vice President Debra Mays Jackson. Like Holtzclaw, she is charting a path for great outcomes.

  13. V.E.G. says:

    Wow! His distant cousin Griffin Walter Holtzclaw was a hero! He saved two girls but God took him! Well done, Griffin! May his memory be eternal! Rest in peace, y’all!

  14. darel thigpen says:

    My name is Darel Thigpen Billy’s. Son I am the great grandson of WH Holtzclaw I stay in Jackson ms

  15. lcthornton says:

    My name is Lonnie (LC.) Thornton. My brothers (Dr. Alvin Thornton (Howard University) and Gene are doing some William Holtzclaw research. Our ancestors lived in the community where Holtzclaw grew up. Wehadkee High Shoals. We grew up there too. We recently interviewed Countess Chapman whose mother, Mamie Shealy attended Holtzclaw,s school and spent time at Snow Hill. I remember a young man in the community in the forties that we called Jr. Holtzclaw Never knew his whole name. We are trying to ascertain if William Holtzclaw had any connection to the high school we attended.(Randolph County Training School), in Roanoke Alabama. Opened in 1919 and closed in 1970 by court order.

  16. Cousin Dwayne Holtzclaw in Missouri found this Vicksburg MS article! Enjoy
    https://issuu.com/vicksburgpost/docs/110111/16?e=0

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