Mississippi Valley State University
Former name
Mississippi Vocational College (1950–1964)
Mississippi Valley State College (1964–1974)
Motto"Live for Service"
TypePublic historically black university
EstablishedFebruary 19, 1950; 74 years ago (February 19, 1950) (groundbreaking)[1]
Parent institution
Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning[2]
Academic affiliations
Endowment$3.65 million (2021)[3]
PresidentJerryl Briggs
Students2,406 (fall 2018)[4]
Location, ,
United States
CampusRemote town[5], 450 acres (1.8 km2)
Other campusesGreenville
NewspaperDelta Devils Gazette
ColorsForest green, white, and red[6]
NicknameDelta Devils & Devilettes
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division I FCS - SWAC
MascotDelta Devil

Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU, The Valley or Valley) is a public historically black university in Mississippi Valley State, Mississippi, adjacent to Itta Bena, Mississippi.[7][8] MVSU is a member-school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.


The institution, which opened in 1950, was created by the Mississippi Legislature as Mississippi Vocational College. The legislation to form the institution was signed into law by Governor Thomas L. Bailey on April 5, 1946. On February 10, 1950, Governor Fielding L. Wright served as the main speaker at the opening ceremony.[9]

The legislature anticipated that legal segregation of public education was in danger because there were increasing challenges to it through legal suits (in 1954 it was declared unconstitutional in the United States Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education). It created this institution in the hopes that it would attract African-American applicants who might otherwise apply to Mississippi's premier whites-only institutions: the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

State leaders hoped that founding separate institutions of higher learning for Mississippi's black population would reduce 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 black people, those proposing creation of M.V.C. used the term "vocational" to imply that the institution's main purpose would be to train black people to take on blue-collar jobs.

The site selection committee appointed by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning had originally selected as a site the former Greenwood Army Air Base, which had many facilities ready for use and thus would have been a very cost-effective choice. The Greenwood Commonwealth celebrated the choice. However, residents of Carroll County, Mississippi objected to having the institution located near their properties.[10]

After further study, the committee selected a site in Itta Bena. Whites of that town also objected to having a black institution nearby, so the final site chosen was away from the downtown area, and on land that was not good for cultivation.[11]

In 1964, Mississippi Vocational College was renamed Mississippi Valley State College. In February 1969, a nonviolent student boycott, which included eight hundred students, male and female, was organized to protest President James Herbert White's administration. The students demanded required courses in black history, more library purchases of works by black writers, remedial courses in English and Math, scheduling of prominent black speakers, and fewer curfew restrictions.[citation needed]

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.

Following President White, Dr. Ernest A. Boykins, Jr. took office in July 1971. Dr. Joe L. Boyer became MVSU's third president in January 1982 and was followed by Dr. William W. Sutton in July 1988. Dr. Lester C. Newman became the fifth president of MVSU on July 1, 1998. Dr. Donna H. Oliver became MVSU's sixth president and first female president on January 1, 2009. On November 6, 2013, Dr. William Bynum took office as MVSU's seventh president.

In May 2017, Bynum departed MVSU to become president of Jackson State University. Dr. Jerryl Briggs, who served as executive vice president and chief operating officer in Bynum's administration, was named interim president of the university shortly afterwards. On October 19, 2017, Briggs was officially named as the university's eighth president.[12]

In a 1997 article in Innovative Higher Education, the journalist Dale Thorn describes MVSU's successful attempt to avoid a merger with another institution and to remain a separate entity.[13]

In 1998, the university renamed many of the buildings on campus, except for those named for white supremacist politicians Walter Sillers, Jr., Fielding Wright, and J. H. White.[14]


The campus is on a 450-acre (180 ha) tract of land adjacent to U.S. Highway 82.[8]

It is in Mississippi Valley State census-designated place, in unincorporated Leflore County,[15] in the Mississippi Delta region. It is 1 mile (1.6 km) northwest of Itta Bena. The university is about 5 miles (8.0 km) from Greenwood, about 50 miles (80 km) from Greenville, about 100-mile (160 km) north of Jackson, and about 120-mile (190 km) south of Memphis, Tennessee.[8]

MVSU includes faculty and staff apartments and other residential apartments.[16] Dependent children living in these units are within the Greenwood-Leflore School District. These apartments were formerly served by the Leflore County School District.[17] Effective July 1, 2019 this district consolidated into the Greenwood-Leflore School District.[18]


Mississippi Valley State University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees through the following entities:

MVSU offers an honors program for high-achieving undergraduate students on campus.[19]

MVSU was accredited in 1968 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award bachelor's and master's degrees.[20]

Student activities

Activities include theater, special interest groups, orchestra, fraternities, sororities, and band. Students may work on the Delvian (yearbook) or the Delta Devil Gazette (student-run newspaper). Leadership opportunities are found in the Student Government Association (SGA) or other organizations such as English Club, Future Teachers of America, and Trades and Industries Club.

Mean Green Marching Machine

Mississippi Valley State University's marching band is known as the "Mean Green Marching Machine" (also goes by the moniker of "The Mack Of The SWAC") and the "Satin Dolls" are the featured dance squad. The band holds the distinction of being the first African-American band to participate in the Tournament of Roses parade, which it achieved in 1965.[21][22]


Main article: Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils and Devilettes

Coach Lindsey Hunter and the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils basketball team in 2020

MVSU's colors are forest green and white. Their nickname is the Delta Devils 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 of the 1984 football team.

In 2016, MVSU completed $17.5 million worth of renovations to the Harrison HPER Complex. The 87,042 square foot multi-purpose arena is home to MVSU men's basketball, women's basketball, volleyball, commencement ceremonies, and other special events. The facility includes features such as fitness centers, an indoor walking track, and three technology HPER classrooms.[23]

WVSD 91.7 FM

MVSU's on-campus public radio station is WVSD 91.7 FM. The station offers a variety of programming involving MVSU, current events, and music.[24]

Notable alumni

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
Katie Hall 1960 Former U.S. Representative from Indiana from 1982 to 1985, and former city clerk of Gary, Indiana
David Lee Jordan N/A Democratic Mississippi State Senator since 1993 [25]
Chris Charm 2016 actor
Bryant Clark 1998 Democratic Mississippi state representative since 2004, and a Mississippi Attorney [26][27]
Chris Epps 1982? Longest-serving commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections [28]
Famous Amos social media personality
Jerry Rice 1985 Former NFL wide receiver; member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Willie Totten 1985 Former Head coach of the Delta Devils football team
Patricia Hoskins 1991 former player for the women's basketball team, the Devilletes, who once held the record for NCAA Division I women's basketball points scored in a career
Carl Byrum N/A NFL running back
Ashley Ambrose 1992 NFL cornerback
Fred Bohannon 1982 Former NFL defensive back [29]
Vincent Brown 1987 Former NFL linebacker and current college football coach
Cadillac Don & J-Money Rappers [30]
Parnell Dickinson 1975 Former NFL quarterback
Ricky Feacher 1975 Former NFL wide receiver and member
Alphonso Ford 1992 Former NBA and Euroleague basketball player
James Haynes 1984 Former NFL linebacker (1984-1989) for the New Orleans Saints
Corey Holmes 2000 Mayor of Metcalfe, Mississippi; former CFL running back
Jason Holmes first born-and-raised American to debut in the Australian Football League with St Kilda Football Club [31]
George Ivory 1988 Current men's head basketball coach
Dewayne Jefferson 2001 Former professional basketball player
Deacon Jones 1960 Former NFL defensive end; member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Ronald Kirklin 1987 Major General in the United States Army. Former Quartermaster General and Commandant of the Quartermaster School at Fort Lee
Dave McDaniels 1967 Former NFL wide receiver
Melvin Morgan 1976 Former NFL defensive back
James Oliver 1968 First African-American graduate of UMMC [32]
Zach Penprase Israeli-American baseball player for the Israel National Baseball Team
Terrence Terrell 2004 Emmy award winning actor
Tyrone Timmons 2006 Arena Football wide receiver
Sam Washington 1981 Former NFL cornerback
Ted Washington, Sr. 1972 Former NFL linebacker
Danta Whitaker 1989 Former NFL tight end


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  2. ^ "IHL System - About".
  3. ^ "Data USA - Mississipp Valley State University".
  4. ^ "University, community college enrollment down in Mississippi". Hattiesburg American.
  5. ^ "IPEDS-Mississippi Valley State University".
  6. ^ MVSU Style Guide (PDF). 2015-07-01. Retrieved 2016-04-09.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "List of HBCUs—White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities". Archived from the original on 2007-12-23. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
  8. ^ a b c "Location Archived 2012-06-03 at the Wayback Machine, Mississippi Valley State University. Retrieved on April 5, 2012.
  9. ^ "Ground Breaking For Negro College". The Greenwood Commonwealth. February 9, 1950. p. 1. Archived from the original on May 29, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ James Herbert White. Up From a Cotton Patch: J.H. White and the Development of Mississippi Valley State University([s.n.] 1979), p. 36.
  11. ^ Loewen, James W. (1999). Lies Across America: What our Historic Sites Get Wrong. The New Press. p. 235. ISBN 1565843444.
  12. ^ Briggs named president of Mississippi Valley State University, mississippi.edu; accessed October 27, 2017.
  13. ^ Dale Thorn (February 1997). "When a Trial Threatens to Merge Small Universities: The Role of Litigation Public Relations in a Federal Desegregation Case". Academic.research.microsoft.com. 22 (2): 101–115. Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  14. ^ Loewen, James W. (1999). Lies Across America : what our historic sites get wrong. The New Press. p. 236. ISBN 1565843444.
  15. ^ "2020 CENSUS - CENSUS BLOCK MAP: Mississippi Valley State University CDP, MS" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2022-08-14. Mississippi Valley State Univ (in blue text)
  16. ^ "Campus Map" (PDF). Mississippi Valley State University. 2017. Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  17. ^ "SCHOOL DISTRICT REFERENCE MAP (2010 CENSUS): Leflore County, MS" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  18. ^ "School District Consolidation in Mississippi Archived 2017-07-02 at the Wayback Machine." Mississippi Professional Educators. December 2016. Retrieved on July 2, 2017. Page 2 (PDF p. 3/6).
  19. ^ msvalley (16 April 2015). "Honors Program". Mississippi Valley State University.
  20. ^ "Accreditations". Archived from the original on 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  21. ^ "Rose Parade Bands 1950-2006" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-08-30.
  22. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Society of American Archivists. August 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-08-19. Retrieved 2015-08-30.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ "MVSU unveils plans to renovate HPER Complex". Mississippi Valley State University. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  24. ^ "WVSD Radio". Mvsu.edu. Archived from the original on 2016-03-17. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  25. ^ David Jordan. Mississippi Senate. Accessed 2012-09-01.
  26. ^ "Rep. Bryant W. Clark". Archived from the original on 2016-10-19. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  27. ^ "Bryant W. Clark- Lawyer in Lexington, Mississippi (MS) Holmes County - legaldirectories.com". Legaldirectories.com. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  28. ^ Amy, Jeff. "Ex-Prison Boss and Businessman Admit to Bribery Scheme" (Archive). Associated Press at ABC News. February 25, 2013. Retrieved on February 27, 2015.
  29. ^ "Fred Bohannon bio". DatabaseFootball. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  30. ^ "Show & Prove Cadillac Don & J-Money". XXL. 9 November 2006. Retrieved 9 November 2006.
  31. ^ "Former Morehead State forward poised to make history in Australian Football League". Collegebasketballtalk. 21 August 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  32. ^ "An extraordinary admission: 50 years ago, Mississippi native perseveres to become medical school's first Black graduate". March 14, 2022. Retrieved 22 February 2023.

33°30′45″N 90°20′33″W / 33.51256°N 90.342422°W / 33.51256; -90.342422