Blacks @ Dartmouth 1775 to 1960

African Americans @ Dartmouth College 1775-1960

James Major Colson, Jr.

Dartmouth College
Class of 1883 (A.M.) Phi Beta Kappa
15 Oct 1855, Petersburg VA
22 May 1909, Petersburg VA
School Dartmouth College Class 1883
Born 15 Oct 1855, Petersburg VA Degree A.M. (Phi Beta Kappa)
Died 22 May 1909, Petersburg VA

Career summary

Educator, Scholar, and HBCU President

Quotes from biographical sources

James Major Colson died in Petersburg, Va., May 22, 1909, from a complication of diseases. He was born in Petersburg, Oct. 15, 1855, his parents being James Major and Fannie M. ( Bolling ) Colson. After attending the public schools of his native city, he completed his preparation for College at the high school of Middleboro, Mass. His work in College entitled him to membership in Phi Beta Kappa.

After graduation he returned to Petersburg, and found employment as clerk in the office of the collector of customs. This position he surrendered in November to take the chair of science in the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, at Petersburg. He remained there for twenty-one years, when he resigned to accept the principalship of the John A. Dix Industrial School, at Dinwiddie, about fifteen miles from his native home. He was married February 3, 1886, to Miss Kate D. Hill of Petersburg, whose parents were John H. and Rosetta (McCray) Hill. She survives him, with three sons and two daughters. One of their children is a teacher in St. Augustine's School, Raleigh, N. C, and another in Hampton Institute, Hampton, Va.

We take the following from the Petersburg Daily Index-Appeal: "Perhaps no man of his race was more widely or favorably known in this vicinity. He was the first secretary and founder of the Colored Y. M. C. A. of this city, and he 'spent and was spent' in its service. No man had a higher conception of duty, and no man was more earnest or energetic in prosecuting the work his hands found to do. He has been in charge of his present work about five years, and although the school changed hands last year, the new management insisted on his remaining at the helm. This was his life-work, and he literally died at the post of duty. He has been for some years, and was at the time of his death, a member of the St. Stephen's Protestant Episcopal church of this city."

Class Notes. (Jun 1909). Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, 1(9), 319.

Other source(s)

  1. Titcomb, Caldwell. (2001). The Earliest Black Members of Phi Beta Kappa. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 33, 92-101. doi:10.2307/2678933
  2. The Colson Family. (1946). Negro History Bulletin, 10(1), 3-9, 20-21.
  3. The Colson-Hill Family Papers, Accession #1965-13 , Special Collections and Archives, Johnston Memorial Library, Virginia State University, Petersburg, VA. Retrieved from

Profile image source/credit:

Dartmouth College Photographic Files, Alpha Delta Phi 1883 Seniors.