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Unlike John Johnson and Esau Brooks who were documented, praised, and recognized throughout University’s history, there are many staff members who remain unnamed and silenced. Through photographs, yearbook illustrations, short stories and articles, the service of many African- American staff members is marginalized and restricted to subservient roles. Many of these documents generalize or use racial stereotypes to describe staff members, rather than highlighting individuals for their contribution to the University. In looking at these unnamed faces and silenced voices, we see how racism works in complex ways, both implicitly and explicitly.
The five documents featured within this gallery demonstrate the ways in which unnamed African-American staff members were represented at the University. Throughout this archive there are many other documents that similarly fail to name a staff member, or, only describe a staff member based on their role in a service position.
The first document, "What the Bell Says" (top row, left), features nine cartoon-like illustrations from the 1916 yearbook. The first frame in the illustration depicts a black woman calling white female students to dinner, with the text "dinner" underneath her. This document depicts the black woman only for her service role in the dining hall, rather than identifying her as an individual.
The second document, "The Piedmont Club" (top row, right), features a photograph of multiple white women being pulled in a horse and carriage by an African-American man. Below the photograph, the names of the various white women are listed. However, the text neglects to mention or identify the African-American man within the photograph. This page within the yearbook silences this African-American man by failing to acknowledge him as an individual.
The third document, "Africcan-American Female Cooks" (second row, left) from the 1925 yearbook, features a collage of women participating in leisure activities. The photographs on the bottom far left and right of the page show two black women serving some sort of domestic role at the University. Underneath the photograph of the black woman on the far left reads, "A friend when in need of breakfast." The image on the far right reads, "Minnie the cook." These two women are made visible through these photographs; however, they are identified for their role in a service position rather than identified as individuals with a first and last name. "Minnie" is identified only by a first name; she is described for her role as a cook.
The fourth document, "Uncle Cy Gets Points on College Life" (second row, left), is a short story from The Messenger in 1914 that demonstrates how students at the University remembered and felt about African-American staff members. Within the story, the white, male student explains to his father the academics and activities offered at the University. Within the story, John speaks about Uncle Cy, a black farm worker at the University. The story uses dialect to identify different characters, emphasizing Uncle Cy as uneducated in comparison to the white men. This document reveals how students at the University saw themselves as superior to the African-American staff, and chose to identify them based on their lack of education rather than their qualities as an individual.
The fifth document, "Important Notice! Colored Help," is an announcement from The Collegian in 1922 that explains the modified dining service hours with the reason, "due to the impossibility of getting colored help without offering some weekly holiday." This document demonstrates how African-American staff members were condemned rather than appreciated for their service. Additionally, the staff members were generalized to a deragatory stereotype by describing these staff workers in the dining hall only for their roles in a service position. This document reiterates the explicit racism and lack of appreciation for African-American staff members at the University.