Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

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About-Fall 2015

This site presents the beginnings of a larger University endeavor, the Race and Racism at the University of Richmond Project, which takes as its mission the documentation, preservation, and interpretation of the history of race and racism at the University. With the help from our professor, Dr. Maurantonio, our class focused on University history between 1914 and 1932. We began with the following questions to guide our research:

How do we acknowledge a shameful past?

Why does the past matter?

What is race? What is racism?

How have our understandings of race and racism changed over time?

By exploring the history of race and racism at the University, we have found that we can learn a lot about our current lives as students and about the possibilities for the future of the University as well. Ultimately, this site is a step aimed at engaging these big and difficult questions to which future classes, student research projects, and University community projects will contribute and develop.

Over the course of the semester, we examined archival materials housed in Virginia Baptist Historical Society, focusing specifically on The Messenger (the student literary magazine) and the University yearbooks. We additionally read the digitized student newspaper, The Collegian. Our initial analysis enabled us to see a series of common themes: Chinese students, attending the University as part of the Baptist mission, were “othered”, black staff members were silenced, and language and performance were used to discriminate against people of color. We found that racism appeared in different ways. While the more apparent performances of racism were recognizable to us, we found that when we paid closer attention to the materials in the archives we were able to discover some less obvious forms of racism through the language used, the performances that were put on, and the clubs in which students participated in. In this sense, we saw the ways in which racism was circulated through a multitude of different sites, institutional and individual.

The exhibits featured here, “The Dark Side of College Life,”  The Chinese Student Experience, and Student Life and White Supremacy, share the stories we feel are a crucial part of the University's story. As unflattering as they may be, the information accumulated has its place in our story and is intended for all. As the project continues to build, we find ourselves still wrestling with more questions than we began the course with. Can a history be objective? Whose stories need to be told? Where can we find these stories? We hope to continue the conversation and begin to engage the University community to raise similar and new questions about the history of race and racism at the University.


Fall 2015 Campus Collaborators:

Fred Anderson- Executive Director, Virginia Baptist Historical Society

Ryan BrazellAcademic Technology Consultant, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology

Darlene Herod- Research Assistant, Virginia Baptist Historical Society

Lynda Kachurek- Head of Rare Books and Special Collections, Boatwright Library

Jeannine Keefer- Visual Resources Librarian, Boatwright Library

Chris Kemp- Head of Discovery, Technology, & Publishing, Boatwright Library

Corrina Waxman- Media Production Coordinator, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology

 

Fall 2015 Contributing Students:

Campbell Crochiere (Bryn Mawr, PA) is a senior at the University of Richmond, graduating in May 2016, where she is majoring in Rhetoric & Communications Studies. When reflecting on the class Campbell says, "as a student at Richmond, I was interested in learning more about the history and culture of the University from the perspective of students attending Richmond 100 years ago. After looking through the yearbooks, The Messenger, and The Collegian, I was very surprised to see how different race relations were at the University of Richmond during the early 1900s."

Katherine Desloge (St. Louis, MO) will graduate from the University of Richmond in May 2016. She is a major in Rhetoric & Communications Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. Reflecting on this course Katherine says, "I took this course not only to have the chance to learn more about the archiving process, but also to become more knowledgable of our history through a digital platform. I never expected to learn so much about the history of our school. Not only did I learn about race and racism, but I also learned about how Richmond and Westhampton joined to form the University for what it is today."

Alyssa Godley (Wellesley, MA) is graduating from the University of Richmond in 2016 with a major in Rhetoric & Communications and minor in Sociology. Alyssa says, "I think the biggest take away from this class would be that the process of archiving data is one that is complex and requires a broad range of knowledge about not only the documents but the archives themselves." 

Sharon Lim (La Crescenta, CA) is a senior with a double major in Political Science and American Studies. Sharon says, "the power of digital memory and platform is often overlooked, but can have great impact on communities, memory, and individuals." 

Class Photo

Caitlin McCallister (Exton, PA) is a senior, graduating from the University of Richmond in May 2016 with a double major in Leadership Studies and American Studies. Caitlin says, "I took this course because I wanted to be a member of the class that launched the Race and Racism project at the University of Richmond. I was a bit surprised at how easily I came across documents involving race and racism just from a few university sources, but they have given me great insight on campus culture in the early 1900s.

Kasey McGhee (Roanoke, VA) is expected to graduate from the University of Richmond in May 2017. As a junior, she declared her double major in American Studies and Rhetoric & Communication Studies. When reflecting on the creation of the archive, Kasey says, "I discovered what it takes to make an archive and how important and useful digital history can be."

Julia Morris (Scarsdale, NY) is a senior with a double major in Psychology and Rhetoric & Communications. When asked why this course was appealing to her, Julia responded, “I took this course because the idea of studying digital memory was interesting to me. I think that getting the opportunity to take a look into our University's past is really special. I learned so much just about the University itself through the yearbooks and newspapers that I read and as a senior I am so happy to have gotten this opportunity!”

Matt Mullen (Richmond, VA) is a senior majoring in Leadership Studies. Matt says, “I took this class not really knowing what to expect. I really enjoy history, and I felt like this class would be able to cover a vast amount of topics from a historical perspective, while also doing something different and engaging.” Reflecting on his time in the archive, Matt says, “there is always something new to be discovered. Each time I would read The Web or The Messenger, I would always come across a new piece of information that was relevant for our project.”  

Olivia Parisi (Manhasset, NY) is a double major in Rhetoric & Communications and Italian Studies, graduating in May 2016. She enjoyed discovering documents in the archives. Olivia commented, "'The Dark Side of College Life' was a photograph that my group had found early on, and it raised a lot of questions about how African Americans were documented throughout the University's history. The exhibit, 'The Dark Side of College Life' really challenges us to think about race and racism at the University."

Scott Shim (Burbank, CA) is currently a junior at the University of Richmond, graduating in May 2017 with a major in Rhetoric & Communication Studies. When reflecting on what he learned during the formation of the archive, he says there is an "importance of studying the past of social issues, such as race and racism. The only way to truly fix an issue is to see how it arose in the first place. By reading the journal articles about race and racism, I was able to expand my understanding of what race and racism were at the University."

Shira Smillie (Philadelphia, PA) is currently a sophomore at the University with an intended double major of American Studies and Latin American, Latino & Iberian Studies. Looking back on the semester, Shira says, "I took this course to engage in discourse surrounding race and racism. On this campus, most people that I have come across are not willing to engage in conversation surrounding race and racism, so I always seek out courses that I feel will allow me to do so. Being an archivist is extremely difficult. One must be meticulous and be able to keep track of all information found in order to be able to reference the information at a later date." 

Morgan Snider (Malvern, PA) is a senior majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, and a minor in Rhetoric & Communication Studies. Morgan says, "this project has opened my eyes to how technology is shaping the way we learn and communicate with each other."

Leslie Stevens (Richmond, VA) is a current senior graduating in May 2016. She is majoring in Rhetoric & Communications Studies and minoring in Environmental Studies. Leslie says, "I have become obsessed with Esau Brooks and uncovering his role at the University... With this [project], I want to share and remind the users and creators of this site that the stories presented here are meant as a glimpse or introduction into a much larger narrative and experience."

Caroline Weber (Boston, MA) is currently a junior double majoring in Leadership Studies and American Studies. When asked about the impact this class has had on her, she responded, “I am somewhat embarrassed that three years into my education here, I did not know much about the University’s history. After taking Dr. Maurantonio’s class, I now know about our past, and am excited to be part of a team of students that is able to document it for the community.”

Ciana Young (Richmond, VA) is an American Studies and History double major, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor with the intended graduation date of May 2017. For Ciana, her biggest take away is "that history and history preservation is extremely subjective. We need to consider more what we choose not to remember and what we exclude from our story."