Virginia Union University was founded in 1865 to give newly emancipated slaves an opportunity for education and advancement. The University is the result of the merger of four institutions: Richmond Theological Seminary, Wayland Seminary, Hartshorn Memorial College, and Storer College.
Richmond Theological Seminary held classes in Richmond, Virginia at Lumpkin’s Jail, a former holding cell for runaway slaves. During the same time, Wayland Seminary was founded by the American Baptist Home Mission Society in Washington, D.C. Two years later in 1867, Storer College was founded in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and in 1883, Hartshorn Memorial College opened its doors in Richmond as the first college for African American women.
After three decades of operating independently, Richmond Theological Seminary and Wayland Seminary merged on February 11, 1899 to form Virginia Union University. Later, in 1932 and 1964, respectively, Hartshorn Memorial College and Storer College became part of this UNION.