Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Browse Exhibits (2 total)

Performance & Policy: Construction of Race Through A Musical Lens

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This exhibit examines the ways that music can help us to understand the attitudes surrounding race and racism held not only by students but also faculty members at the University of Richmond between 1932 and 1938. To begin, this exhibit discusses choral teacher Charles Troxell and his influence on the Richmond College Glee Club over many years in service as director. The next section of our exhibit zeroes in on the performances of the University’s all-white, male Richmond College Glee Club by pinpointing the problematic inclusion of minstrelsy and Negro spirituals in their various performances. Lastly, we further our research by examining campus policy surrounding what genres of music students were permitted and prohibited to play. By looking at performances showcased by white students as well as the restrictive policy of musical genres put in place by white faculty members, this exhibit endeavors to add a new narrative to the larger Race & Racism initiative. Through an examination of select primary source documents, we find white dominance asserted through the types of music that the students were allowed to engage in versus the genres of music that the University restricted through policy, thus constructing students’ views and experiences with African Americans. 

 

Sources Used:

This exhibit draws on articles from the University of Richmond's school newspaper, The Collegian, and the school literary magazine, The Messenger, to provide insight into what students believed was important to write about during this period. This exhibit also utilizes online, non-University sources to provide more historical context regarding how minstrel shows, Negro spirituals, and policy generally existed in society and popular culture during this time. By looking at University sources as well as outside sources, this exhibit can shed light on, and expand upon, the relationship between race and music, and the way that attitudes around race and racism were constructed through permission of problematic musical performances and restriction of certain music genres.

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Student Life and White Supremacy

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In 1914, when Richmond College moved to the University's current location, Westhampton College for women opened as well. Most of the students in these coordinate colleges were white, and many were from Virginia or nearby states. Though there were a few international students present at the time, student life was dominated by clubs and other organizations that catered to the interest of white students. 

In this exhibit, we explore questions about the role cultural geography plays in memory, performance, and championing whiteness. In their article “Whiteness: A Strategic Rhetoric,”  Thomas Nakayama and Robert Krizek suggest that we ought to “examine whiteness as a rhetorical construction and discuss the ways in it re-secures its central position” (292). Located in the capital of the former Confederacy, the University of Richmond provides us with materials through which to gain unique insight into the culture of white supremacy during the early 1900s. Documents about student life at the University during this time enable us to examine campus culture and race relations more closely. The pages of this exhibit analyze how white supremacy was maintained on the University of Richmond’s campus through everyday life and culture in the forms of performances, clubs, and literary works.

 

Nakayama, Thomas K., and Robert L. Krizek. "Whiteness: A Strategic Rhetoric." Quarterly Journal of Speech 81, no. 3 (1995): 291-309. doi:10.1080/00335639509384117.

 

 

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