Bluefield State, along with West Virginia State are both HBCUs with majority white enrollments. This is due largely to the fact that a vast majority of West Virginia’s African-American community has decided to pursue better opportunities elsewhere.
Once upon a time, though, the Blues were a force amongst HBCUs. They back-to-back Black College Football National Titles in 1927 and 1928 under legendary coach Henry Jefferson. Ray Kemp, one of the last black players to play in the NFL before its racist ways banned African-American players, coached there as well.
Bluefield was once a member of the defunct Midwest Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), today known as the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. It joined the CIAA in 1932 and left in 1955 when the state decided that both it and WV State should join the West Virginia Intercollegiate Conference as an attempt at integration following the passage for Brown v. Board of education.
“It seems applicable that the admission of these two all former Negro colleges into the conference would follow logically,” West Liberty State College President Dr. Paul N. Elbin said in May of 1955.
There has been talk of Bluefield State’s desire to re-join the CIAA. The school has re-started its football program after being dormant for nearly 40 years. It has played many HBCUs in basketball in recent years, including several teams within that league. And the CIAA, like the SIAC, has already admitted a school with a majority white enrollment into its conference with the addition of Chowan over a decade ago.
Only time will tell whether Bluefield State rejoins the CIAA. But in the meantime, its neighbors in the Commonwealth of Virginia need to get it together and stop continuing to give both Bluefields a bad name.