Browse Exhibits (19 total)

"Dark Side of College Life"


This exhibit illustrates the tension between how African-American University Staff members were recognized between 1914 and 1932. This exhibit explores how racism was articulated at the University through photographs, student literature, student news articles, and community publications.

With a focus on African-American staff members, the exhibit demonstrates how their representation (Featured Staff) and lack of representaton (Unnamed Staff) explain the variety of ways racism at the University manifested itself over the years.

Throughout our research in the Virginia Baptist Historical Society archives, we came across an image in the 1915 yearbook captioned, "Dark Side of College Life." The photo shows nearly a dozen unidentified African-Americans on the University of Richmond's campus.

This photo raised questions in our study about the ways in which African-American staff members were represented, remembered, and acknowledged by students and administration at the University of Richmond. The fact that they were pictured could demonstrate appreciation of their work because they were made visible through the photographs in the yearbook. In contrast, the staff members are unnamed, their titles unlisted. Their position could be interpreted from their dress, but where they belong at the University is unknown. There are, however, two exceptions: Esau Brooks and John Johnson, whose service to the University was recognized and at times commemorated in school publications.

When thinking back to "Dark Side of College Life," we began to question how the contributions of African-American staff members were both silenced and praised. When looking at this in the context of the racial dynamics of the City of Richmond, we realized that African-American staff members at the University of Richmond were often silenced regardless of the impact they had on student life. Having seen the ways in which the representations of John Johnson and Esau Brooks contrast with photos like "Dark Side of College Life" in which staff were unnamed, unrecognized, and silenced, we realized that racism at the University of Richmond was complex; racism manifested itself in the representations of both the recognized and unnamed staff members.

Despite the stark differences between these two presentations of staff at the University, we do not intend to suggest that racism works in a light and dark binary, but rather that racism operates in complex ways. Depsite the fact that staff members from 1914-1932 were made visible in University publications, many were still nameless and only identified by their role as laborers. 

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Chinese Student Experience


The city of Richmond has been an historical home to the Baptist General Association of Virginia, a convention associated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. In 1845, the Southern Baptist Church formed the Foreign Mission Board (renamed International Mission Board), headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. Jeremiah Jeter, president of the Richmond College Board of Trustees, was the first president of the Foreign Mission Board, beginning a long association between Richmond College and Baptist ministries abroad. Baptists chose China as the first site for their evangelistic efforts, dividing China into five missions. In 1922, all Chinese students at the University of Richmond were graduates of Pui Ching Baptist Academy (Pui Ching Middle School) in Canton (Guangzhou), China. Located in what was considered the South China Mission, the school was founded in 1889 and was the first to be created by Chinese Christians rather than Baptist missionaries.

Chinese students have been an integral part of the University of Richmond since at least the early twentieth century. Likely the first non-white students to receive an education at Richmond College, Chinese students have been subject to racial stereotyping and endured racist language, often documented in archival materials. Chinese students from both Richmond and Westhampton College were active members of the University community, preserving and promoting their identities while forming the first cultural and co-ed organizations on campus. This exhibit analyzes archival materials including the written works of Chinese students, photographs, documents, and additionally reflects the open participation of white students in Orientalism. This curated collection of historical documents and images aims to provide insight into the lives of Chinese students at the University of Richmond.

Chinese Student Club 1924A 1924 photograph in The Web, picturing Chinese Club students: J. A. Paau, Y. F. Leung, C. K. Wong, K. F. Cheung, King Mok, P. L. Mok, W. H. Lam, T. L. Sene, and Y. C. Shek. 


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Dining Discrimination at the University of Richmond


In its 2019 edition, The Princeton Review ranked the University of Richmond as the ninth most segregated campus in the nation. One space on campus where this segregation is most palpable remains the Heilman Dining Center, the University’s centralized dining hall. Focusing on the history of dining services on campus, this exhibit explores the factors that led to the current forms of segregation at the dining hall. The first page, consisting of items spanning from 1917 to 1958, show that racism at the dining halls on campus took root long before the admittance of the first residential Black students at the University of Richmond in 1968. The second page showcases how the outright racism and segregationist policies of the first page morphed over time into forms of implicit social segregation, reflecting what political sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva terms “new racism." Other elements of the dining hall that indicate new racism are the physical layout, food and decorations of the Heilman Dining Center. All of these elements, although not necessarily intentional, have a potential role in making minority students feel uncomfortable or unwelcome while dining on campus to this day. A few of these varied student experiences and opinions conclude the second page.

While this exhibit is not meant to diminish any efforts to combat the Heilman Dining Center's (and the University's) segregation problem, it does intend to openly address the segregation that existed explicitly in the past and persists implicitly today, segregation that is all too often unspoken, ignored or denied. The following pages, guided by a close analysis of items from the University of Richmond’s student newspaper the Collegian and correspondances , reveal a narrative that helps to answer the question: how has the social act of sharing and distributing food intentionally excluded and alienated people from marginalized communities?

Faculty Response to Institutional and National Change (1968-1973)

Why now?

To date, the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond project has examined several key players to the university campus: college presidents, students, and staff.  However, a major group of folks that have the power to shape the culture of the school is missing: faculty and administrative staff.  To look at their role at the University, I chose a five-year window, 1968-1973, defined by change for both the university and the nation to explore exactly how these figures fit into this project. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, racially restrictive covenants became illegal in real estate, two Olympic athletes staged the iconic silent protest by raising their fists instead of placing their hands on their chests during a medal presentation ceremony, and Star Trek aired the country’s first televised interracial kiss.  A Virginia case, Green v. New Kent, made it all the up to the Supreme Court where the justices ruled that “freedom of choice” was not a legal response to Brown v. Board of Education as it was not a sufficient method to integrate the school system.  That same year, the University of Richmond enrolled its first residential black student, Barry Greene, on its main campus.  Barrier shattering changes filled the rest of these years as well, particularly with the rise of liberatory movements for women, black folks, and the LGBTQ community to the anti-war movements that swept the nation.



Faculty belonged to one of three colleges: Westhampton College, Richmond College, and University College on Lombardy Avenue (UCLA).  Westhampton College, established in 1914, and Richmond College, founded in 1840,  were the women's’ and men's’ colleges, respectively. Before Richmond College was officially established in 1840, it was a Baptist Seminary; these Baptist roots shaped every aspect of the University, that is, until the 1960s and 1970s when both faculty members and students began challenging the constraints, and sometimes discrimination, that came along with this Baptist affiliation.  University College was a satellite site of the University of Richmond, opened in 1962, as an educational alternative and a connection to the business community of Richmond. Through an examination of documents in the archive, UCLA was often cast as the “inferior” choice for the less qualified students.  It offered night classes and accepted its first black student in 1964, Walter Carpenter.  Within these colleges, there were separate divisions, which were clusters of majors.  


Argument and Questions

This exhibit grapples with a couple of driving questions: (1) What role did faculty play in challenging, perpetuating, and/or remaining complicit in systems of oppression? (2) Were there certain faculty members more likely to resist oppressive mandates such as women, ethnic and religious minorities, or even faculty member from certain departments?

To answer these questions, this exhibit utilizes former University President George Modlin’s papers from the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, The Richmond Collegian Archive, the student newspaper, and editions of The Web, the University of Richmond yearbook.  By attempting to answer the aforementioned questions with these documents, I argue that not only do faculty need their place in narratives of Race & Racism at the University of Richmond, they were also responsible for being complicit in, and in some cases, actively resisting systems of oppression that shaped the campus environment.  For this exhibit, I focus on how faculty responded to religious discrimination, racial discrimination, and student dissent- all of which determined the culture of the campus as being inclusive only for those who fit the University’s model of acceptable- white, conservative, and Baptist.

George Modlin's Segregated University of Richmond


Who was George Modlin? 

George Matthews Modlin was the fourth president of the University of Richmond (1946-1971). During his tenure, the University’s annual budget increased exponentially; investment in construction of new buildings rose to 24 million. Among these new buildings were the Law School and Boatwright Memorial Library. By the time Modlin left office in 1971, the student body had grown from about 2,300 to 7,000, making the University the largest private institution of higher education in Virginia.

Modlin earned his doctorate from Princeton University where he eventually taught economics. When he came to the University of Richmond, he served as an Economics Professor and the dean of the Evening School of Business Administration until 1946. He then took on the role of president and the chairman of the Economics department. After Modlin stepped down from this role, he served as a chancellor for fifteen more years. Beyond his duties at the University, he was also involved with organizations within the Richmond area and abroad. Modlin served as the president of the following organizations: Member Richmond Chamber of Commerce, Southern University Conference, Southern Association Baptist Schools and Colleges, and Association of Virginia Colleges. 

Fall 2016 Class

What is his archive? 

The University of Richmond accepted its first black student to University College on Lombardy Avenue, an alternative site for "day campus" course offerings, in 1964 and integrated the main campus four years later in 1968. Up to this point, President Modlin corresponded with many different individuals and organizations such as the Association of American Law Schools, various Baptist-affiliated organizations, University alumni, leaders of other institutions of higher education, and University of Richmond students themselves. It is in this folder, titled "Segregation Matters," that one can see what exactly led up to the integration of the University of the Richmond through the lens of its president himself.

How does this exhibit use the archive? 

This exhibit utilizes the sources found in George Modlin’s collection of documents regarding segregation from his time as president at the University of Richmond. Through a close reading of the correspondence in this collection, a narrative of social power at the University of Richmond begins to unfold. This exhibit hopes to give texture to the narrative of desegregation on the University of Richmond’s campus. Rather than leave the story of integration as a natural social progression from segregated student life to desegregated student life, the documents in the segregation folder of Modlin’s archive indicate the pressure placed on University of Richmond’s administration in the 1950s and ‘60s to change policy. Letters from alumni, Baptist organizations (Baptist Churches and Baptist-Affiliated Universities), and the American Association of Law Schools indicate that outside pressure from constituents with social, political, and economic power may have created push factors for policy change. This exhibit will look at some of the factions that wrote to Modlin about the issue of segregation at the University of Richmond and will examine the arguments made regarding maintaining or dismantling policies on segregation.  

What sources does this exhibit bring together? 

This exhibit brings together many documents that reveal the alumni in support of desegregation.While looking into the George Modlin documents we did not find much information about the people who supported segregation, but we are aware that there were tensions on both sides. Because of this, we recognize the limitations of our research being that we are mainly seeing resistance to segregation. As a result, we are unable to see how passionate some alumni were to keep the University segregated.

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Global Citizens: How to Integrate a Curriculum

“The curiosity within us fuels endless discovery”
This is the first statement that appears under the academics tab at the University of Richmond’s website.

Cleary, the University of Richmond has a long history educating in the liberal arts tradition. The University of Richmond’s website describes a liberal education as “the foundation of self government and free societies," and then says that a “liberal education is essential to building a knowledgable citizenship- nationally and globally.” While this branding is current, the University's definition of a liberal arts education clearly has shifted over time. In it's 1981 workshop on the liberal arts, the University's proposal for inclusion in a workshop on liberal arts education remarked that it was "committed to Judeo-Christian values," among other goals that promoted intellectual freedom and creativity. 

While the focus has shifted to cover a more global landscape and to move away from a sheer Western bias, many of the departments on campus still carry a heavy Western and European focus. This includes departments such as philosophy, which contains no non-Western courses. There still exists no Black, Urban, or Ethnic studies program of study here, and students who want to study that information are encouraged to take American Studies. Several peer institutions listed on the website, such as William & Mary, Bucknell, and Middlebury, offer specific departments that specialize in Africana or African American Studies for students to engage with. In order to create national and global citizens, students should be educated in a way that brings light to other cultures, recognizes the legacy of racism in this country, and studies history, culture, and abstract thought in an accurate and fair way.

The University has a long history of attempting to integrate the curriculum. This exhibit discussed two instances of their attempts to do so. The first is the debate over Western Civilizations as a required course, which was mandated until 1991 (when It was replaced by Core). Second is a donation in 1967 that was intended to institute a Black Studies program, one that never came to fruition.

Lost Cause Ideology, Found at the University of Richmond

Students of Color in the Messenger


The University of Richmond has a deep connection to the Civil War, that extends from being located in Richmond, which was considered the Capital of the Confederacy. This exhibit is focused on repeated episodes of nostalgia for the Old South. The University began in 1830 as a Baptist Seminary. During the Civil War, the college ceased operation, as a majority of the faculty and students fought in the war for the Confederate Army. The school was in disarray after the war, as the Union Army occupied the campus, a fifth of the faculty and students had been killed in the war, and the University was bankrupt. Due to the donations of the Virginia Baptist Society and other members of the community, Richmond was able to re-establish itself after the Civil War in 1866.


Lost Cause Ideology 

The concept of Lost Cause Ideology is important to the understanding of this exhibit. Lost Cause Ideology was created after the Civil War in an attempt for Confederates and their descendants to shape the memory of the conflict, in a way that celebrate white souther heroism. Therefore, the focus was brought on creating the narrative that the Civil War was due to an economic need for secession, without focusing on the cornerstone of that labor, slavery. Part of the Lost Cause was also creating an image of the enslaved, as obedient, and happy to do the labor they were forced into.

Oral Histories


The Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project seeks to expand what is available in the archival record of university history by conducting oral histories highlighting the experiences of groups that are often excluded from the historical record. Beginning in summer 2018, students working with the project began conducting interviews with the purpose of expanding the archival collection of the University. While previous research found elsewhere on this site has led us to find the names of people of color who remain invisible within the University’s official stories about itself, taking up oral history has the ability to capture the lived experiences of these individuals. 

If you would like to participate in this oral history project, please contact us at

Performance & Policy: Construction of Race Through A Musical Lens


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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Race and Racism Observed In UR Sororities

Fraternities at the university have an astounding past surrounding the topic of race and racism, as documented by yearbook pictures and paraphernalia within each fraternity’s history. Unlike fraternities on campus who have exhibited overt forms of racism, sororities have “new” forms of exclusionary practices--often referred to as "covert" or "new" racism--as evidenced through yearbook pictures and Collegian articles.

Historically, white sororities were first chartered at the University of Richmond in 1986 and were hotly debated upon by students, faculty, administrators, and Board of Trustee members. As the fight for sororities expanded from white sororities to Historically Black Sororities in the early 1990s, subtle forms of racism became apparent and highlighted the exclusionary practices of Greek like towards students of color on campus. The exclusionary practices observed in the historically white sororities on campus are found in the unspoken absence of people of color rather than obvious pictures and artifacts, leading many students to view these institutions as perpetuating racism on campus.

This exhibit tracks the history of the establishment of first white sororities and then Black sororities on campus, in efforts to make the social scene at the University of Richmond more inclusive. 

Covert Racism - subtle forms of racism (ie. discouragement based on race, avoiding one based on race, intentionally leaving one out based on race, racial attitudes, etc.)

Overt Racism - Individual racism; blatant racism