Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Student Life

Ever since beginning their studies at Westhampton College and Richmond College, Chinese students have made contributions to campus life and left their mark at the University. Students were involved in a variety of organizations, and took part in both religious and academic initiatives. One involved student, Sidney W. Quong, was a member of the Chinese Club, assistant manager of the Yo-Yo Club, member of Alpha Delta Ministerial Fraternity, first bass in Glee Club, and also served on the selection committee for the Y.M.C.A. Two students, T. S. Cheung and Y.T. Cheung, were part of the United States Army's "Company C" infantry, Y.T. Cheung serving as a Sergeant.

This exhibit page presents Chinese student involvement at the University in several clubs with well-documented membership: the Chinese Club, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the Chinese Student Christian Association of North America, and the Ministerial Association. The exhibit additionally profiles Yiu Fong Leung (W‘25), who is believed to be the the first woman of color to enroll at Westhampton College.

Yiu Fong Leung

Photograph of Yiu Fong Leung, from The Web 1925

Yiu Fong Leung

Yiu Fong Leung (W‘25), a student from Shiu-Hing (Zhaoqing), Canton (Guangzhou), China, was the first female Chinese student and likely the first woman of color to enroll at Westhampton College. Before coming to Westhampton College, Yiu Fong attended the Pooi To Girls’ School, a school organized by the Southern Baptist Convention in Dongshan, Guangzhou. After completion of her primary education in Guangzhou, Yiu Fong attended Virginia Intermont College, a junior college located in Bristol, Virginia. Yiu Fong entered Westhampton College as a sophomore, in 1922, her cousin Yik Chin Cheung (R‘23) having attended before her. During her first semester, Yiu Fong was profiled in the Richmond Collegian, expressing homesickness and describing “a certain love” as missing from the American classroom.

As a senior in college, Yiu Fong’s peers wrote a warm description of her time at Westhampton College, praising her as a go-getter with a spunky personality. “She always seems to get what she goes after,” the yearbook notes, even “permission from the House President to go walking with eight boys.” This perhaps refers to Yiu Fong being the only female member of the Chinese Students Club, with an average of eight male student members at the time. The class profile also calls attention to stereotyped attributes: her “almond eyes” and tendency to “tangle up” names. In her 1922 Richmond Collegian profile, Yiu Fong expected to return home after her education.

Chinese Club

A yearbook page profiling the Chinese Club from The Spider 1924, including a photograph and membership list. (The Spider)

Chinese Club

The Chinese Club (also referred to as Chinese Student Club, the Chinese Students Organization, or Oriental Club) was likely the first cultural student organization on campus. Likely created in 1921, the Club was a way to bring together the small Chinese community at Richmond College. The club would become co-ed in 1923 when Yiu Fong Leung arrived at Westhampton College. As additional Chinese students were admitted to Westhampton College, women such as Kwan Fong Cheung, also became club members. The Chinese Club was the only student organization at the University to have both men and women as members at this time. The club provided cultural programming for the campus community as well as a place for members to spend time with one another.

Ministerial Association

A club photo of the 1918 Ministerial Association, including Y.T. Cheung and T.S. Cheung (The Spider).

Religious Organizations

The Ministerial Association was formed in 1914 by Richmond College students as a service to fill vacant community pulpits with ministerial students. By 1919, the Ministerial Association had 45 student members, although many students did not regularly attend meetings. In a 1917 profile in The Spider, photos of Association members are shown across from an illustration that could be interpreted as a crude illustration of a Black minister or a man in blackface. It is unclear if this was a symbol of paternalistic racism or wordplay on the similarities between the words ‘ministerial’ and ‘minstrel.’ Chinese students are shown as members in 1918 yearbook photographs, including students T. S. Cheung and Y. T. Cheung (perhaps cousin of Yiu Fong Leung).

Many Chinese students also participated in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) while at the University of Richmond. The YMCA was both a Christian ministry organization as well as a social organization, the two intersecting in 1923 when a minstrel show was organized to raise conference funding. As minorities at the University, most photographs from this era show only one or two Chinese students as part of religious clubs. As non-white students, Chinese students were able to find some level of integration within the community. Due to a lack of preserved documentation, it is difficult to gauge the participation level of students within these clubs.

A Chinese Student’s Christian Association of North America (CSCA) chapter was organized at the University in 1931. This organization has roots in the Boxer Indemnity Scholarships, which caused an influx of Chinese students to the United States beginning in 1908 (Tseng, 306). CSCA was formed to provide religious guidance to these students, and eventually became informally affiliated with the YMCA. During the 1920s, CSCA chapters were noted for protesting “racism and imperialism” across the United States (Tseng, 325).  As noted by the CSCA chapter at the University of Richmond, there was a sense of disconnect between Chinese students and other University students. The CSCA was presented as an organization that could support Chinese students while also creating cooperation with other religious groups. The CSCA served as a response to a desire for self-representation, to form a Chinese Christianity, and unite the diasporic community (Tseng, 328). It is unclear how long the University of Richmond chapter remained active, but by 1946, the CSCA would ideologically turn towards Chinese Nationalism and lose the support of the YMCA, causing the organization to dissolve by 1951 (Tseng, 329).

Student Life