University of Richmond Race & Racism Project

Dining Discrimination at the University of Richmond

In its 2019 edition, The Princeton Review ranked the University of Richmond as the ninth most segregated campus in the nation. One space on campus where this segregation is most palpable remains the Heilman Dining Center, the University’s centralized dining hall. Focusing on the history of dining services on campus, this exhibit explores the factors that led to the current forms of segregation at the dining hall. The first page, consisting of items spanning from 1917 to 1958, show that racism at the dining halls on campus took root long before the admittance of the first residential Black students at the University of Richmond in 1968. The second page showcases how the outright racism and segregationist policies of the first page morphed over time into forms of implicit social segregation, reflecting what political sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva terms “new racism." Other elements of the dining hall that indicate new racism are the physical layout, food and decorations of the Heilman Dining Center. All of these elements, although not necessarily intentional, have a potential role in making minority students feel uncomfortable or unwelcome while dining on campus to this day. A few of these varied student experiences and opinions conclude the second page.

While this exhibit is not meant to diminish any efforts to combat the Heilman Dining Center's (and the University's) segregation problem, it does intend to openly address the segregation that existed explicitly in the past and persists implicitly today, segregation that is all too often unspoken, ignored or denied. The following pages, guided by a close analysis of items from the University of Richmond’s student newspaper the Collegian and correspondances , reveal a narrative that helps to answer the question: how has the social act of sharing and distributing food intentionally excluded and alienated people from marginalized communities?


This exhibit was curated by Nathan Burns as part of an A&S Summer Fellowship