Southside High School (SHS), Dinwiddie, Virginia has as its origin the Dinwiddie Normal and Industrial School. For many years this was the only high school in Dinwiddie County for Negroes. This school took pupils from the elementary grades through high school. Students had to pay a small tuition fee to attend since it was owned and operated by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
This school served somewhat as an orphanage for homeless and underprivileged children from various northern states. After completing the four years high school course, students received a two year teaching certificate. Many taught in this and other counties under this plan.
Because the county did not have a high school, Mr. Woodyard interceded with county authorities to get them to pay the tuition for the pupils. This provided many more children the opportunity of a high school education without cost to them or their parents. This continued for several years. Later, the county began paying the teachers’ salaries, although the school was still operating under the name of Dinwiddie Normal and Industrial School.
In 1939, the Dinwiddie Training School came into view to replace the old school. This school served Dinwiddie County well until it was destroyed by a mysterious fire in the early spring of 1953. The graduating class had its commencement exercises in the Mount Level Baptist Church.
September of ’53 the school opened again in the old frame building of the still existing Dinwiddie Normal and Industrial building with some remodeling done by the county for safety protection of the pupils. This building was housing the agriculture, industrial arts, home economics departments even during the lifetime of the brick structure, Dinwiddie Training School.
A new, larger and much more modern structure was already in the making on Highway No.1. This building was to become the new high school for Negroes of Dinwiddie County. The old Dinwiddie Training School was to become a consolidated elementary school, but fire denied the county pupils this privilege.
This school was completed in the spring of 1954 with the graduating class holding its Baccalaureate and Commencement exercises in the new gymnatorium.
In 1956 this structure was dedicated the Southside High School of Dinwiddie County with Dr. Roy W. Watson, principal, 520 students, and 26 staff members. Southside thus underwent several structural and name changes. In 1970, it was named Dinwiddie Junior High. Later in 1985, it was named Dinwiddie Middle School. Dinwiddie Middle School also housed the Dinwiddie’s Adult Education Program. In 2012, the school was closed and renamed Historic Southside High School Education Center (HSH). The School Board created a Task Force to address the concerns of the citizens in regards to the use of the facility. Sharon Bonner Yates, former Southside High School student and School Board employee, was appointed the task force chair person.
HSH served as the home of Dinwiddie Department of Social Services starting March 2014 and later Dinwiddie Health Department in its Annex starting June 2016. They both called Historic Southside home until their new offices were built in December 2018.
Dinwiddie County Public Schools Special Education Department was housed in the Annex of HSH until July 2019.
The Historic Southside High School Education Center currently serves as the home of Dinwiddie’s Adult Education Program, provides space for School Board and other meetings and trainings as needed and contains DCPS secondary education Pathways Learning Center.
In addition, it houses the the Rivermont School Greater Petersburg that provides a therapeutic educational program.