For more than 40 years, Armstrong High School and Maggie Walker High School met on the gridiron on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to play football. As the City’s only two Black high schools at the time, the event became a spirited reunion and a staple for the African American community in Richmond.

THE FIRST MEETING December 2, 1938 The first Armstrong–Maggie Walker game wasn’t even on the schedule in 1938. In fact, of the two soon-to-be rivals, only Armstrong had a schedule. Maggie Walker was in its initial year as a school, and while Coach Arthur “Stretch” Gardner was helping teach skills of the game to his young, inexperienced group, which was eager to learn, no games were planned. Practice was nothing more than preparation for the 1939 season. But two weeks before Thanksgiving, Gardner, urged by his players, approached Armstrong coach Maxie Robinson about the possibility of a game between the schools. The Wildcat staff, including Harry Williams, worked out the details, and Friday, December 2, was chosen as the date. Hovey Field, on the campus of Virginia Union University, was the site. On the afternoon of the game, the Walker squad walked down the street, and Armstrong’s Wildcats, wearing their distinctive orange and blue uniforms, traveled from Prentis and Leigh, along with between two and five thousand spectators (depending on whom you asked), to the field. Unfortunately, no one in the media was there to report the outcome. When the teams met, Armstrong had enjoyed a successful 5-2-0 season, which included a win over rival Peabody of Petersburg. Walker on the other hand, had to borrow fifteen to twenty red and white (the official school colors were green and white) uniforms from a local recreation center to field its team. 
(Excerpt from the book "UNITED IN RIVALRY" by Michael Whitt 2009)

LATE 1863

Lieutenant Colonel Samuel C. Armstrong, born in 1839 to missionary parents in Hawaii, was assigned to the Ninth Regiment, United States Colored Troops.


In the shadows of a burned-out Richmond, just five months after the fall of the Confederate States of America, the Freedman’s Bureau founded the first free schools for the recently freed African American children of Richmond. At first, the teaching was done at four churches and Dill’s Bakery, located at the corner of St. James and Clay Streets. White female teachers from the North joined the superintendent of the schools, Union army chaplain Rabza Morse Manley, as children were taught during the day and adults at night.

JJULY 17, 1867

Maggie Lena Walker was born to Elizabeth Draper, a former assistant cook in the Church Hill home of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Unionist who ran a spy ring in the shadow of the Confederate capitol building. Walker’s father was Eccles Cuthbert, an Irish-born newspaperman and abolitionist.


Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute was founded by Armstrong, who, since 1866, had been supervising the establishment of freedmen schools in eastern Virginia.

APRIL 1873

Having outgrown the building at Sixth and Duval, the Richmond Colored High School and Normal School relocated to a newly erected building at the end of Twelfth Street and opened with a student body of 113 pupils.

SEPTEMBER 17, 1867

The Richmond Colored High School and Normal School, located at the corner of Sixth and Duval Streets, was dedicated. Manley was named the principal, and the teachers remained northern white women.

NOVEMBER 2, 1903

Maggie Walker opened the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, the first bank owned and operated by African Americans.

MAY 11, 1893

Samuel Armstrong died and was buried at the Hampton Institute campus cemetery.


After the Twelfth Street building was condemned in 1908, and after a year housed in the Baker Street School building, the Richmond Colored High School and Normal School moved to the corner of First and Leigh Streets and was renamed Armstrong High School in honor of Samuel Armstrong.


Due to an expanding student body, Armstrong High School was forced to relocate again and moved to Prentis and Leigh Streets.


The St. Luke Penny Savings Bank merged with two other black-owned banks in Richmond to form the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, with Maggie Walker named as chairperson.


After the football program had been dropped in 1929 because of economic difficulties brought on by the Great Depression, a group of Armstrong students petitioned the Richmond School Board to reestablish the program. A total of $187.50 was raised, a team was fielded and science teacher Maxie Robinson, an Armstrong graduate, was named as coach. That season, Armstrong finished with five wins and no losses. 

DECEMBER 15, 1934

Maggie Lena Walker died and was buried at Richmond’s Evergreen Cemetery.


The Richmond City School Board voted to open a second African American high school providing a vocational and industrial education.


The doors of Maggie L. Walker High School were opened.