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. The legislature anticipated that legal segregation of public education was in danger (and would in four years be declared unconstitutional in the United States Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education) and therefore created the institution, hoping that its existence would draw African-American applicants who might have otherwise applied to attend Mississippi's premier whites-only institutions—the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and the University of Southern Mississippi. Creating separate institutions of higher learning for Mississippi's black population, the state's political leaders hoped, would help ease 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 blacks, those proposing creation of M.V.C. used the term "vocational" to imply that the institution's main purpose would be to train blacks 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 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 property. Thus after further study, the proposed site was moved to Itta Bena. Even that town, however, objected to too close a proximity of a black institution, so the final site was chosen to place the college away from the downtown area, on cheap, uncultivatable land.
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 White's administration of the institution. The students were demanding 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.
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. Earnest A. Boykins 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 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.
In 1998, the university renamed many of the buildings on campus, except for those named for Sillers, Wright, and J. H. White.
MVSU public radio station is WVSD 91.7 FM. The station offers a variety of programming involving MVSU, current events, and music.
The campus is on a 450-acre (180 ha) tract of land adjacent to U.S. Highway 82 in unincorporated Leflore County, in the Mississippi Delta region, 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.
Mississippi Valley State University offer degrees through the following entities:College of Art & Sciences
College of Professional Studies
College of Education
68% of the faculty at the university hold terminal degrees.
MVSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Activities include theater, orchestra, 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.
NPHC Greek-letter organizationsAlpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Epsilon Pi chapter
Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Zeta Phi chapter
Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Eta Alpha chapter
Iota Phi Theta fraternity, Eta Kappa chapter
Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Zeta Zeta chapter
Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Beta Theta chapter
Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, Delta Phi chapter
Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, Kappa Chi chapter
Zeta Phi Beta sorority, Psi Gamma chapter
Non-NPHC Greek-letter organizationsAlpha Phi Omega service fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Phi chapter
Gamma Sigma Sigma service sorority, Zeta Psi chapter
Alpha Phi Sigma national criminal justice honor society, Zeta Tau chapter.
Kappa Kappa Psi national honorary band fraternity, Delta Pi chapter
Tau Beta Sigma national honorary band sorority, Gamma Eta chapter
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 in 1965.
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.
The Mississippi Valley State University Department of Athletics currently sponsors intercollegiate:
In 1986, the men's basketball team received a 16 seed in the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. There, they faced #1 ranked Duke on national television in the first round. The Delta Devils almost became the first 16 seed to beat a 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history. They forced 23 turnovers and led 40-37 at the half before falling 85-78.
In 2016, MVSU completed $17.5 million worth of innovations to the Harrison HPER Complex. The 87,042 square foot multi-purpose arena is home to MVSU men's basketball, women's basketball, volleyball, and commencement ceremonies. The state-of-the-art facility includes features such as fitness centers, an indoor walking track, and three technology HPER classrooms.