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While there were acts of both overt and inferential racism on the University of Richmond's campus between 1946 and 1971, these documents suggest that there also were students who attempted to resist this racism and advocate for students of color. Both students of color and white students are voiced in this exhibit. Students attempted to challenge existing rituals and events that maintained white supremacy. The emphasis of this page is on the many students taking the responsibility of action towards diversifying the university. While there were student anti-racist advocates prior to 1971, this page focuses on this year. We decided to focus on 1971 because advocacy was the most heavily documented in this year with many students taking part. This anti-racism work ranged from advocating for specific programs/workshops to challenging cultural practices such as the playing of "Dixie."
This is an editorial (Item #321) on using the song “Dixie” at school events. In 1971, "Dixie" was played at University events, prompting students to petition for its elimination. The editorial argues for the song's elimination or possible reduction in use so that students did not feel marginalized.
"Dixie" remains associated with its Confederate identity and has been considered an offensive/racist song. The content of the song includes phrases such as, "I wish I was in Dixie", "land of cotton" and "In Dixie's Land I'll take my stand." It has a nostalgia of the antebellum South and a history of slavery. It was unofficially endorsed as the Confederate anthem and often was sung by blackface performers. The University of Richmond's unofficial mascot at the time was a spider in a confederate army uniform. This was a popular symbol at the University and can be connected to the use of the song "Dixie."
This editorial was chosen as part of the larger exhibit because it demonstrates student awareness of Richmond's racism. In this editorial, while some students did not view the song as offensive, the majority of the student government believed the use of the song should cease. Stanley Davis, a black student at the University, argued that Dixie was an offensive symbol of the Old South and repression, and that it would be difficult for Richmond to encourage black students to attend when it played and celebrated a song that created a certain kind of "attitude" and "image" about the University. Senior Terry Anderson felt the song kept Richmond from having a progressive image; another student felt that if a song is offensive to even a small minority, it is "common courtesy" to cease playing it. These examples show students trying to change some of the racist traditions at the University. The editorial presented the opinions of both black and white students.
This Collegian article (Item #318) announced a workshop on student attitudes towards racism, sponsored by the Westhampton College YWCA, the Richmond Human Relations Commission, and Virginia Union University. The workshop's aims were "to establish dialogue on racist attitudes... to 'examine myths and realities felt by whites towards blacks and vice versa, and to create an awareness of racial attitudes and prejudices.'"
This article shows an awareness of the prejudices and racism on the University's campus and an incentive to act. The Westhampton College YWCA, while comprised of students, teamed up with the Richmond Human Relations Commission and Virginia Union University to start a conversation about the concerns of racism. This was a huge step towards improving the University's campus to be a more inclusive place. These workshops were also specific to student beliefs and attitudes, which show students trying to reach other students.
The Collegian does not actually record if these workshops were successful. This is a great question to continue to explore. However, the conversation did continue with other workshops on racism documented in 1971.
This Collegian article (Item: 305) discussed "Black Students Visitation Day," a program which would bring an estimated 80 black Richmond high schools students to campus. The program was formed by the Richmond College and Westhampton College senates "in an effort to familiarize the black community with the University of Richmond." The goal of Black Students Day was to help create a more diverse student body at the University of Richmond. Students believed that the event would appeal to more black students because it was created by student organizations.
This article shows the actions taken to create a more diverse student population at the University. What is important to note is that this event was created by student organizations rather than the career services on campus. Students took the initiative to create this event and organize it in a way that they believed would be beneficial to reach minority students. There were more movements for black student recruitment continuing into the 1980s.