Chip Cartwright said that when Venus Jones was turned away from the University of Virginia, she was going to get there, even if she could not start there directly. She stated that she was “going to do it quicker and then get back to UVA.”1 Venus Jones did just that when she completed her requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in just three years.2 She became the first African American to graduate from the University of Mary Washington when she graduated as part of the Class of 1968.
Initially, Venus Jones wished to be admitted into the University of Virginia’s pre-med program for her undergraduate education. However, the university was not accepting women into their undergraduate program at the time, and only allowed women to transfer from other schools and enroll in their graduate programs. Administrators encouraged Venus Jones to attend Mary Washington College, which was the University of Virginia’s school for women at the time. Venus Jones enrolled in Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) in 1965. While at Mary Washington, she was one of five black residential students, the other students being Chris Hall, Claudith “Dottie” Holmes, and Anita and Orita Whitehead. All incoming Black freshmen were placed in the same room. When faced with this situation, Venus Jones and her roommate came to an agreement to go their separate ways in an attempt to meet new people as much as possible to avoid the thought that they were “sticking together.”1 In an article by the Free Lance Star, Venus Jones described that she did not have problems with the students but did have a few with the older people and some of the older head residents. This was further explained by Chip Cartright, a lifelong friend of Venus Jones. He remembered that she would encounter white students who were surprised that she was a student there, and that she was in a position in which she had to educate her peers. “She had to be tolerant of their questions, ‘cause sometimes they didn’t know quite how to phrase them, and sometimes they just phrase them based on their heritage and what they had heard, and so you had to take a deep breath and say ‘How do I want to respond to this?’”2 He also stated that it was lonely for her at times.
Venus Jones specifically noted that two specific professors inspired her. The first was Dr. Earl Insley, emeritus of chemistry. Venus Jones described him as “a lot of support” and inspired her greatly.3 Music Professor James Baker was also memorable for her, as Venus Jones was a member of the Mary Washington College band.
Chip Cartwright said that when Venus Jones was turned away from the University of Virginia, she was going to get there, even if she could not start there directly. She stated that she was “going to do it quicker and then get back to UVA.”4 Venus Jones did just that when she completed her requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in just three years. She became the first African American to graduate from the University of Mary Washington when she graduated as part of the Class of 1968.
Following her graduation from the University of Mary Washington, she enrolled in medical school at the University of Virginia and was the only black woman in her class. Her world changed as she entered this new school. When discussing her new environment at the University of Virginia, she said, “Once I left Mary Washington I was in an all male society, and problems I had then arose from being female rather than being black.” She had also experienced a new difficulty in this environment, stating, “I could never quite figure out whether it was difficulty because there were so few girls — there were only six girls in our class. You were stuck with, ‘Is it race? Is it sexism?’”5 Despite the difficulties, she enjoyed med school, describing it as both “a lot of hard work” and “a lot of fun.”6 She graduated from medical school in 1972.