Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Preserving Identity

Article "Novel Celebration of Republic's Birth"

Chinese students and University administration and staff march together in a 1920 parade celebrating the formation of the Republic of China. Students carry the five-colored flag, used from 1912 to 1928, symbolizing the five races or ethnic groups harmoniously existing in a united China. (The Collegian)

“The University is proud of the students that China sends here,” a Collegian article stated in 1920. The University community had a generally welcoming attitude toward Chinese students, while still participating in the negative stereotyping and insensitive depictions of Chinese students seen throughout campus publications. A columnist in the Collegian wrote in 1923, “The Chinese students at the University of Richmond have made a place for themselves with the other students as well as with members of the faculty, according to the general belief on the campus.” Through cultural programming and a dedication to campus life, Chinese students were able to share in campus community. The Collegian article additionally noted, “Many of these students have made some of the highest standards reached by any member of the student body in the University.” A yearly cornerstone for Chinese students was staging a celebration of the Chinese Republic (Republic of China), sometimes with a parade and usually with a banquet. Students also frequented local Chinese restaurants in Richmond, specifically Lido Garden, Far East Restaurant, and Shanghai Restaurant, all of which placed menu advertisements in the Collegian. Far East was even mentioned in Kwan Fong Cheung’s 1925 senior profile in The Web, students writing that “we are sure that some of her pleasantest hours were spent at the FAR EAST.”

Advertisement "Shanghai Restaurant"

1920 advertisement for Shanghai Restaurant

Food Diaspora

Anti-Chinese laws remained in place well until the mid 20th century, denying equal rights to Chinese Americans. The United States government crushed many economic opportunities for Chinese laborers with explicitly racist legislation, in line with nationally held xenophobic attitudes. One example of this is the ban on Chinese-run laundromats in San Francisco in the 1880s. Two laundry owners, Yick Wo and Wo Lee, sued for equal rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. While Yick Wo v. Hopkins was settled in favor of the owners, the United States government continued to create legal barriers for Chinese Americans like the Geary Act, the Anti-Coolie Act, and San Francisco’s Pigtail Ordinance.

In 1915, a court case granted Chinese restaurant owners immigration privileges. Immigrants became restaurant owners, establishing hundreds of new businesses across the United States. Chinese entrepreneurs would often pool resources to open restaurants with cycling management in order to create a “succession of people who could qualify for legal merchant status” (Lee). This technique allowed for increased immigration of Chinese Americans, often creating strong communities centered around several Chinese-owned businesses. Chinese students at the University of Richmond would visit these restaurants, places which served as cultural centers for the diasporic community.  

Between 1919 and 1922, advertisements for Shanghai Restaurant appeared in The Collegian. Shanghai Restaurant was located at 622 E. Broad Street, likely on the same corner as the present day UR Downtown. An ad placed in a 1919 issue of The Collegian described the restaurant as being in a new location, “finished throughout in the most tasteful Oriental styles, music being among our added attractions.” The restaurant was managed by To Sham Chung at the time, but by 1920 was managed by David Chen, possibly hinting at the practice of cycling restaurant ownership for merchant status. In 1922, Chinese students hosted a banquet at the Shanghai Restaurant. At the time, club membership included seven Richmond College students, one Westhampton College student, and one student from the Medical College of Virginia (MCV).

Lido Garden was a Chinese American restaurant in the city of Richmond, located on the corner of Broad Street and Third Street, two blocks west from Shanghai Restaurant. The restaurant used at least twice for banquets in 1929 and in 1931. According to a 1934 ad placed in The Collegian, Lido Garden was “most popular Chinese restaurant in the South.” The restaurant was owned by the Ligh family, from Guangzhou, Guangdong Province in China, who also owned a second restaurant called Oriental Restaurant in Norfolk, Virginia. The restaurant was located on the second floor of the building, as was popular in the era.

In 1929, Chinese students held a reception to honor University faculty at Lido Garden, inviting Janet Steward Durham to speak at the event. In 1931, Chinese students held a similar banquet, in honor of Mr. Y.E. Hsiaio (Hsiao), a visiting Chinese educator. From Ningpo (Ningbo), China, Hsiao was a Shanghai College graduate and president general secretary of the Chinese Student Christian Association of North America. In attendance was Dr. Boatwright, president of the University of Richmond, who praised the accomplishments of the Chinese students at the University. A month after Hsiao’s visit to University of Richmond, a chapter of Chinese Student Christian Association of North America was organized on campus.

Article "Chinese to Celebrate Fourteenth Anniversary: Orientals on Campus Plan Elaborate Program With Banquet Tonight"

This article describes National Day celebrations at the University of Richmond (The Collegian)

Anniversary of the Chinese Republic

The Chinese Club staged an annual celebration to mark the anniversary of the Chinese Republic (National Day). During this event, Chinese students paraded through the streets of Richmond and organized banquets for the University community. These activities were approved by University administration, and were often attended by school officials and President Boatwright. The majority white University seemed to appreciate Chinese culture by attending events as celebrants or marching in the anniversary parade.

Chinese students were relatively new immigrants to the United States, and joined a small but growing number of Chinese immigrants living in the United States. By 1910, the Chinese American population in the United States was 94,414, around 0.1 percent of the general population. According to a 1921 Collegian article, there were 160 Chinese students spread out among colleges in the southern United States. At the time of the 1910 Census, 13 Chinese Americans lived in the city of Richmond. It was not until 1943 that all Chinese immigrants were eligible to become naturalized citizens, due to racist policies including the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Celebrating National Day was a common practice in Chinese American communities, a way to preserve the cultural relationship with a shared homeland.

Preserving Identity