- About the Project
- Projects That Inspire Us
- Browse Items
- Subjects List
Featured Staff refers to the praised and recognized African-American staff members who identified in University publications, often celebrated for their service to the University. The two staff members that this exhibit focuses on are John Johnson and Esau Brooks.
John Johnson, who was a janitor at the University for more than 40 years, began his service to the University before Frederic Boatwright assumed the presidency of the institution. Johnson was thought of fondly by the students with whom he came into contact. One student who wrote a poem, titled To John Johnson, mentions Johnson’s smile and acknowledges his impact on the University, saying that the difference will be noticeable when he leaves. Johnson was also featured in the Alien Club photo, a group that seems to represent racial “others” by grouping minorities together. After catching pneumonia, an article about his recovery was published in The Collegian. Instead of focusing on his health, the writer focuses on Johnson's marital status and previous divorces. A yearbook spotlight on Johnson that quotes President Boatwright, acknowledging Johnson's 43 years of service. Another quote in this spotlight from the Richmond Times Dispatch, featured directly under President Boatwright’s, counters Boatwright's sentiment by claiming that words from a prominent figure will not have an effect on the race relations of the institution.
Arriving at the University in 1914, Esau Brooks served as the athletics trainer at the University for over 40 years, until his death in 1957. Brooks is prominently displayed in the Spider yearbook amongst the many athletic teams as a marginalized figure. His contributions are well documented in the The Richmond Collegian, recognizing his contributions to the University environment. Living on Ridge Road, less than a mile from the University, Brooks was literally and figuratively close to the University community. Athletes describe him as an “influential figure in athletics.” In 1936, he was named Athletics Director. Despite this, he is described in subsequent articles as athletics trainer or “faithful caretaker” (1944). Still he is presented with numerous honors, including an honorary degree in Oglethorpe (1943). His death, by fire in his home in 1957, was mourned by the University community. Described as the both the “lovable old man” (1957-Messenger) and the “colored man who spoke little,” (1957-Collegian) who took care of the University grounds and athletic fields, Brooks was praised for his service to the University.