Race & Racism at the University of Richmond

Literary Works

Literary works provide a look into the culture and attitude of students in the early 1900s towards African Americans. White students at the University of Richmond often used African Americans for entertainment, whether they were the punchline of a joke or the characters in a story providing comedic relief. Published student literary works also reveal discrimination and racism through written blackface dialogues and racist language towards African Americans.

 

Gawd's Handwritin' [Short Story]

Gawd's Handwritin', The Messenger, 1924, Pages 27 - 31

"Gawd's Handwritin'"

This story mocks African Americans through vernacular and creating a character, named A'nt Lucy, that is described as obese, lazy, dirty and "the blackest nigger." The plot of this story is that the there was a leaf found with "Our God" written in gold on a tree that "disreputable" and "agnostic" families cut down, referred to as the "Poor House" families. The whole town, Pheno, and even the black families 10 miles outside of Pheno, like A'nt Lucy began redeeming their sins and converting to Christianity. A'nt Lucy brought her ten children and grandchildren down to see the leaves and was told that it was all a joke on the Christians by the one of the Poor House families' sons. A'nt Lucy replied that they would write "Gawd" not God because they were uneducated and that it was truly God's Handwriting. This is the punchline of the story, mocking the idiocy of African Americans who thought they were smarter than the white disreputable outsiders with unwavering but incorrect superstition and faith. 

This story shows racism’s presence on campus and supports white supremacy through its characters. A’nt Lucy personifies the stereotypes of African Americans as overweight, lazy, and unintelligent. Contrastingly, the white characters of the story (besides the isolated ones that live in the Poor House) are witty and superior to the African Americans. The appearance of this story in a student literary magazine reveals that these beliefs were either condoned or in line with the University’s sentiments.

Methuselah Jones [Short Story]

"Methuselah Jones", The Messenger, 1915, Pages 308 - 314

"Methuselah Jones"

In this six-page short story found in The Messenger, the author W.H. Brannock offers a story situated in 1870 about a black man named Methuselah Jones. Throughout this story, the author refers to Methuselah Jones as a "typical country darkey" and "the blackest 'nigger' in Dogtown Hollow." This character of Methuselah Jones is constantly objectified within the story. At times he is even referred to as an object. The racist tone throughout the story reiterates racial stereotypes by portraying Methuselah Jones as uneducated, superstitious, and religious.

"Re-Hash Joke Column", The Collegian, November 14th 1924, Page 6

 

Racist Re-Hash Joke

The re-hash is a joke section of the Collegian, including the following: "Aunt Jemima, a big negro washer-woman, had just been knocked down by an automobile. A crowd gathered around to sympathize with her. 'You'll get damages for this, Aunt Jemima,' said one of the crowd. 'Damages h--I,' she replied, 'Ise got all the damages that I want-I crave repairs.' " This joke is targeted at African Americans and mocks the character Aunt Jemima by portraying her as stupid and overweight. The character Aunt Jemima is based of the typical “mammy” character portrayed in blackface, which was a racist depiction of African Americans. The typical mammy character is a Southern United States archetype of a black woman who worked as a nanny or housekeeper for a white family.  

 

Literary Works