On Charlottesville

We, the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project advisory group, write to express our outrage at the violent actions of white supremacist and Nazi groups during a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville this weekend. We condemn the actions that took place in our community in the strongest possible terms. We express our condolences to all those injured and to the family of Heather Heyer, who lost her life in an act of terrorism.

We represent a project drawing together members of the Richmond community, on campus and within the city, attempting to connect archival work at the University to the present-day challenges of building and fostering a more inclusive and equitable community. Our project attempts to recover and honor the stories of people of color and necessarily interrogates systems of oppression that have silenced and demeaned them. By seeking to identify the effects of white supremacy and other acts of racism, past and present, we understand the importance of naming the causes of such violence: white supremacy and racism, as well as sexism, antisemitism, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, and other manifestations of hatred.

Language matters, and we must be courageous enough to name the paralyzing virus of hatred spreading and circulating among us, even when it masquerades as “free speech.” While free speech is a cornerstone of democracy, it is not unlimited and cannot legally or morally be used to incite violence. When white supremacists use “free speech” as a legitimating cover for directing hate speech at our most vulnerable and marginalized citizens, we have an ethical responsibility to denounce it and the physical violence it promotes. As a community, we cannot claim to uphold diversity and inclusivity as a societal and institutional value, whilst turning a blind eye to the symbolic and physical violence inflicted when racist ideologies are protected and allowed to spread under the banner of “free speech.”

The hatred that spurred the violence in Charlottesville is not new, nor is it unique. While we bore witness to the violence this weekend captured in graphic photographs and streamed on the internet, acts of hatred and bigotry occur daily in venues that are not always as visible or as intensely covered by news organizations. The persistence of these acts reflects a climate that has been part of U.S. culture since the nation’s founding. It has historic roots. It must stop.

As educators, we are dedicated to fostering brave spaces where ideas can be shared and debated. This, we believe, is how learning happens – by having the courage to challenge our most cherished world views through rigorous, collective, and respectful inquiry. However, the events of the weekend remind not that “blame” should be shared by “both sides” as President Trump insists on repeating. Rather, such efforts to evenly distribute blame are efforts to tip the scales in favor of white supremacy.

We invite you to join us in standing up against and denouncing racism, white supremacy, and hate. Naming those ideas and actions is an important step toward holding them accountable. And we need to do better. We must do better.


The Race & Racism at UR Project Advisory Group

Julian Hayter, Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies
Patricia Herrera, Associate Professor of Theater & American Studies
Glyn Hughes, Director of Common Ground, Affiliated Faculty, Sociology & Anthropology
Lynda Kachurek, Head of Rare Books & Special Collections, Boatwright Library
Nicole Maurantonio, Associate Professor of Rhetoric & Communication Studies and American Studies, Project Coordinator
Rob Nelson, Director of Digital Scholarship Lab, Affiliated Faculty, American Studies
Bedelia Richards, Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology
Irina Rogova, Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project Archivist

Sides, Strategy and Slavery in the Civil War

by Elizabeth Mejía-Ricart 

What is it like to be part of the losing side? For the German nation, for instance, it means conciliating with its problematic past and honoring those that were hurt by their actions in the wake of WWII. However, in other communities, like Richmond, having a controversial history still presents a challenge, which in most cases leads to defensiveness and denial. In particular, this inquiry guided me throughout the exhibit of the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar during my visit on Wednesday, June 21. In a chronologically organized presentation, the institution displayed the evolution of the Civil War, giving a particular emphasis to the significance and strategic use of slavery throughout the process. Still, the overarching theme displayed a rather interesting comparison between the North and the South, emphasizing non-apparent similarities between both sides of the dispute.

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Saved?: Preserving Society Hill and Old Philadelphia

BlogPost3.Photo1_Lim_062217By Karissa Lim

The Philadelphia History Museum is a two-level city history museum, claiming to be “your gateway into Philadelphia’s past!”. It has a daunting task before it: telling the history of the city of Philadelphia. The museum uses its exhibits to proudly show us where the city has been and question where it will go. Though its story was one of Philadelphian pride, the museum did not shy away from acknowledging tensions, such as those between races and citizens and government. The exhibit on preserving historic sites in Philadelphia, “Saved! Preserving Old Philadelphia: 85 Years of The Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks,” used unique storytelling and interactive methods to describe the challenges in preserving Philadelphia’s history.

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On Violence, Resistance, and Self-Determination

By Hunter Moyler

As I’ve been working with Untold RVA and Free Egunfemi this summer, two of the aspects of Richmond history I’ve been tasked with finding and recording is that of Black resistance to adverse power structures and self-determination.

“Self-determination,” as you might deduce, refers to a person’s ability to determine their own fate and the steps they take in order to overcome the adversity that may prevent them from doing so. “Resistance” is similar. It denotes the avenues by which marginalized groups challenge the unjust social order of their day. I’ve found that in the era of slavery, which most of my research has centered around, a plethora of the deliberate acts of self-determination and resistance included radical, often violent, subversions of laws, laws created to fence-off African Americans from achieving anything approaching equity with their European contemporaries.

And when I say violent, I mean it. Look no further Angela Barnett, a free Black woman who lived in Richmond in the late eighteenth century, who killed a man who broke into her house under the suspicion that she was harboring an escaped enslaved man. (Sidbury, Ploughsares into Swords, 4) Or, take Martha Morriset, an enslaved woman who, along with others living on Chesterfield County plantation, murdered her so-called “mistress” after she tried to “correct” her and then chopped up her body and tossed the remains in the James. (Sidbury, 220 – 221) And, of course, I’d be tragically remiss not to mention that General Gabriel, as part of his unfructified plan to establish a free Virginia, intended to kill all Whites “except Quakers, Methodists, and French people” (Amateau, Come August, Come Freedom, 220) until Governor Monroe assented to the soldiers’ demands for emancipation for all of the Old Dominion’s Black population.

The actions of these people were certainly bold moves to take their lives into their own hands and subvert their oppressors, and of course these ought to be recorded and remembered. Each time I read about the enslaved retaliating against their captors, I take note of it. But such reading has placed a smorgasbord of food for thought in front of me, and I’m beginning to feel a smidge bloated.

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Archiving: A Detective’s Work

By Maryam Tahseen

I remember delving into archiving in my second week of research with no idea as to what I would find. Just like any detective, I decided to understand the background of my case before I investigated further into the details. I started my investigation by going through Collegian articles from 1914 to 1975. As I went through newspaper articles from the Collegian, I started identifying the various themes that existed during different timeframes. I found out that 1950s was a time of immense support for the Confederate cause while 1960s revolved around discussions of integration of the university. As I moved into the 1970s, I realized that it was a decade of changes and activism.

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Museum of the Confederacy: I Am Sorry My Dear, but You Are Up for Elimination

by Joshua Kim

Picture this. You, an innocent, pop-culture savvy, Korean-American student at the University of Richmond, exploring the Museum of the Confederacy. You read the sign in the entrance:

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“The leaders of those states acted because they believed that the election of Abraham Lincoln as U.S. President threatened the South’s interests. Lincoln’s Republican Party…opposed the expansion of slavery into the western territories. The expansion of slavery and the return of fugitive slaves had been sources of serious tension between South and North since the Mexican War (1846-1848). …Only in 1860-1861 did those tensions lead to secession.”

Cool. Awesome. Sweet. You feel reassured that the museum will be inclusive of those who were enslaved by white-colonial Americans, aka Africans. So you begin your self-led tour of the museum.

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