Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Chinese Student Activities

Although many of the Chinese students came to the University of Richmond for religious and academic purposes, they took part in activities outside those realms. This exhibit presents Chinese students’ involvement at the University and the roles they served within University life. The exhibit presents three clubs the Chinese students were part of: The Chinese Club, the Y.M.C.A., and the Ministerial Association. These clubs provide evidence of how these students left their cultural mark at the University. 

Chinese Club

This is a club photo of the 1924 Chinese Student Club with a list of the student members (The Spider).

Chinese Students Club

The Chinese students attending the University of Richmond founded the Chinese Students Club in 1921 as a way to bring together the Chinese students at the University. The club first started as an organization with only male members. In 1923, Yiu Fong Leung became the first woman member of the Chinese Students Club. Soon after, other students from Westhampton College, such as Kwan Fong Cheung, followed. The Chinese Students Club was the only student organization to hold both male and female members. As the only ethnic and non-white club, the Chinese Students Club reminds of the lack of diversity at the University of Richmond.

This article covers an event at the University of Richmond where Chinese students celebrated the birth of the Chinese Republic, and rendered homage to their homeland (The Collegian).

The club did more than unify Chinese students within the University. The students created the club to promote Chinese culture through different activities and events. The article featured at right described an event during which the Chinese students celebrated the Birth of the Chinese Republic. During this event, the Chinese students paraded through the streets of Richmond and set up banquets for the University community. Several other articles covered by the Collegian featured stories similar to this event initiated by the Chinese students. Such activities were approved by the University’s administration. Additionally, the administration and the University's community, such as Dr. Boatwright himself, attended these special occasions. The University, which was majority white, seemed to have an appreciation for Chinese culture by allowing the students to create their own club and host the cultural events. Based on Collegian articles such as the one at right, white students viewed the Chinese students in an oriental manner and not as common American citizens. The Chinese students were relatively new immigrants to the United States, however few Chinese immigrants lived in the United States long enough to be viewed as common American citizens. Therefore, the white American community, especially in the Richmond area, saw the Chinese students in a more foreign manner. Even though the club activities were received well by the University, at the same time there was a discourse of othering by the white members of the University that distanced and exocitized the Chinese students. 

Ministerial Association

This is a club photo of the 1918 Ministerial Association, which includes Chinese students T.S. Cheung and Y.T. Cheung (The Spider).

Chinese Students in Christian Clubs

Many of the Chinese students came to the University due to the Baptist missions that were taking place in China. Therefore, it only made sense for these students to join Christian organizations at the University of Richmond. At the University of Richmond, the two main Christian student clubs at the University were the Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A) and the Ministerial Association. The Christian students from Richmond College formed both clubs in order to unify other Christian students on campus and spread the Christian gospel. As minorities at the University, the number of Chinese students within both clubs was relatively few compared to the majority of white students. In many of the club photos, one or two Chinese students were featured at most. Although there is a lack of diversity in the Christian clubs, it is interesting to see how the Chinese students, as non-white members, were able to integrate and be part of a majority white community. However, there were no documents to show how involved the students were within the two clubs. 

Chinese Student Activities