Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Building Name Changes & Reflection

Students of Color in the Messenger

Bulding Name Changes 

Often times, doing such intensive research about racism, can impact my ability to see the University of Richmond in a positive light. Therefore I would like the last page of my exhibit to focus on positive changes that are happening on campus due to the passion of students. In the spring semester, following a student led movement, Westhampton College Government Assocaiation and Richmond College Student Government Association came together to pass a joint resolution, insisting that the University change the names of Ryland Hall and Freeman Hall. In order to give context on why students would want the names of these buildings changed, the following two sections provide brief histories of Reverand Robert Ryland and Douglas Freeman. 

Students of Color in the Messenger

Reverand Robert Ryland (1805-1899)

Dr. Robert Ryland is best known as the founder and first President of Richmond College, starting at 1841 and serving for 20 years. He was also the teacher, and Superintendent of the previous institution, the Virginia Baptist Seminary, that would later turn into Richmond College. He was well known as a preacher, and established the First African Baptist Church of Richmond, leading as the minster. Often overlooked and rarely mentioned by the University, is how Ryland himself was an enslaver. There is a hypocriscy present when a man preaches to enslaved and freed blacks, while also owning men who he deemed as less then. Also rarely mentioned is the fact that Robert Ryland invested all of the colleges funds in Confederate War bonds, during the Civil War, resulting in the college going bankrupt. He is honored on the campus as a hero as the founder of the instiution, yet there is no acknowledgement of his enslavement of Africans. Black students must sit in a buliding honoring a man who may have enslaved their ancestors, and had no desire for them to ever learn in such a space.

Students of Color in the Messenger

Douglas Southall Freeman (1886-1953)

Douglass Southall Freeman obtained his Bachelor's Degree from Richmond College and wrote three books on Robert E. Lee, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1934. Depsite these achievements, Freeman was the son of a Confederate soldier, and idolized Robert E. Lee. He viewed Lee as many other southerners did, as a hero and someone who fought for what they believed in. Freeman's writings contributed to the Lost Cause Ideology, by not including the horrors of slavery in his works.  

Final Reflection 

This project began as a way explore the feeling of dicscomfort that I feel on this campus as a person of color. This exhibit came out of understanding that the history of the University is deeply entertwined with Lost Cause Ideology, and the school needs to take steps to detangle that history. There is damage being done when the University is not continuely taking steps to acknowledge its history, and improve upon it. I wanted to bring these painful, racist, and offensive images, stories, and words forward to show the impact that they can have upon a space. It is my hope that this exhibit can remind the University of its past, so they take continuous action to help this campus become a space where marginalized students feel welcome. 

Building Name Changes & Reflection