Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Yearbook Stories & Caricatures

Yearkbook Stories 

There are stories featured in the early University of Richmond yearbooks, that use racist language, and caricatures as a way to stigmatize African Americans. Stories, and caricatures such as these were common during the Civil War and after, in order to dehumanize and delegitimize the rights of blacks. These caricatures and stories, were used as entertainment, and appear in the yearbooks as jokes, even though they are reflections of a racist ideology. Below is a description of each story, as well as a link to where they can be found in the archive if one wishes to read them in full.

Mammy Rose

This short story written in the 1910 yearbook is titled "Mammy Rose" and centers around a young man Marse Roberts who has lost hope at being successful. However, an older "colored" woman comes upon him, and they reconnect as she took care of him when he was younger. Although Roberts states that a lot of what he became is due to the help of Mammy Rose, she refuses to take credit and instead tells him how wonderful his mother was. She then says that she will stay with him, clean his house, and gives him money because it was what she promised his mother when he died. This short story plays into the common trope of black servants and enslaved people being grateful to serve. The narrative of Mammy Rose is also written in "negro" dialect, depending on misspells to portray black people as inferior, and exaggerated to express inferiority.

Our Pride of Ancestry 

This essay is different from the previous two, as it was written to explain the history of the University of Richmond. The essay was written in the 1915 yearbook, by student Evan Chesterman who focuses on the history of the University, paying special attention to the University during and after the Civil War. Chesterman uses racist when describing the abandoned college campus during the Civil War as “a little darkey’s kinky head divided off into squares by curl papers.” He also goes onto discuss the “humiliation of the worst kind,” during the war, when Richmond was evacuated due to the approach of Union soldiers. It is described that “a negro regiment was quartered in the college building,” and that “these swart occupants of the property proved more obnoxious- and more destructive- than a swarth of cockroaches in a pantry.” Though it has been confirmed that Union Soldiers did occupy the University at one point, this is one of the first mentions of a black battalion. Although there is not much evidence further proving this, one should pay attention to the ways in which the black occupation of the school did cause such disgust, especially considering this essay was written 50 years after the Civil War.

Yearbook Stories & Caricatures