Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Faculty Response to Institutional and National Change (1968-1973)

Why now?

To date, the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond project has examined several key players to the university campus: college presidents, students, and staff.  However, a major group of folks that have the power to shape the culture of the school is missing: faculty and administrative staff.  To look at their role at the University, I chose a five-year window, 1968-1973, defined by change for both the university and the nation to explore exactly how these figures fit into this project. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, racially restrictive covenants became illegal in real estate, two Olympic athletes staged the iconic silent protest by raising their fists instead of placing their hands on their chests during a medal presentation ceremony, and Star Trek aired the country’s first televised interracial kiss.  A Virginia case, Green v. New Kent, made it all the up to the Supreme Court where the justices ruled that “freedom of choice” was not a legal response to Brown v. Board of Education as it was not a sufficient method to integrate the school system.  That same year, the University of Richmond enrolled its first residential black student, Barry Greene, on its main campus.  Barrier shattering changes filled the rest of these years as well, particularly with the rise of liberatory movements for women, black folks, and the LGBTQ community to the anti-war movements that swept the nation.

 

Who?

Faculty belonged to one of three colleges: Westhampton College, Richmond College, and University College on Lombardy Avenue (UCLA).  Westhampton College, established in 1914, and Richmond College, founded in 1840,  were the women's’ and men's’ colleges, respectively. Before Richmond College was officially established in 1840, it was a Baptist Seminary; these Baptist roots shaped every aspect of the University, that is, until the 1960s and 1970s when both faculty members and students began challenging the constraints, and sometimes discrimination, that came along with this Baptist affiliation.  University College was a satellite site of the University of Richmond, opened in 1962, as an educational alternative and a connection to the business community of Richmond. Through an examination of documents in the archive, UCLA was often cast as the “inferior” choice for the less qualified students.  It offered night classes and accepted its first black student in 1964, Walter Carpenter.  Within these colleges, there were separate divisions, which were clusters of majors.  

 

Argument and Questions

This exhibit grapples with a couple of driving questions: (1) What role did faculty play in challenging, perpetuating, and/or remaining complicit in systems of oppression? (2) Were there certain faculty members more likely to resist oppressive mandates such as women, ethnic and religious minorities, or even faculty member from certain departments?

To answer these questions, this exhibit utilizes former University President George Modlin’s papers from the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, The Richmond Collegian Archive, the student newspaper, and editions of The Web, the University of Richmond yearbook.  By attempting to answer the aforementioned questions with these documents, I argue that not only do faculty need their place in narratives of Race & Racism at the University of Richmond, they were also responsible for being complicit in, and in some cases, actively resisting systems of oppression that shaped the campus environment.  For this exhibit, I focus on how faculty responded to religious discrimination, racial discrimination, and student dissent- all of which determined the culture of the campus as being inclusive only for those who fit the University’s model of acceptable- white, conservative, and Baptist.

Credits

Dominique Harrington