Contemporary Issues, Addressed at VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art

by Catherine Franceski

Catherine Franceski is rising junior from Washington, D.C. majoring in Philosophy, Politics, Economics & Law (PPEL) with concentration in politics and minoring in Rhetoric & Communication Studies. She is the president of Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity, and a member of the Westhampton College Honor Council. This is her second year working on the Race & Racism Project. Last summer, she focused on studying the lives and legacies of “hidden” black figures in Richmond, Virginia’s history.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Contemporary Art opened its doors to the public in April of 2018. Visitors enter a beautiful, airy architectural masterpiece called the Markel Center. Ranging three floors, the museum’s inaugural exhibit is called “Declaration.” The entrance to the exhibit states, “We believe in the socially transformative power of arts and the arts…Emphasizing new work by artists based in Richmond and around the globe, it deliberately mixes work by artists of varied generations, backgrounds, and perspectives. Such diversity is essential to any healthy community, whether a university, a city, or a nation. These works mirror the multitude of voices that we encounter on a daily basis, speaking in different modes, tones, and intensities.”

 

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A History of Slavery Won’t Look Nice on Your Wedding Pinterest Board

by Rena Xiao

Rena Xiao is a rising junior from New York City who has spent the majority of her life living abroad in Beijing, China. She is a Double Major in Geography and Global Studies with a Concentration in World Politics and Diplomacy, and a minor in WGSS.

Driving down the gravel path it is easy to see how one can be seduced by the idyllic, tranquil settings of Westover Plantation. The grounds are surrounded by farmland and greenery right on the banks of the James River. The place is quiet except for the occasional breeze or bird chirp. Looking around, one could see how the red brick mansion and expansive green lawn could be the backdrop of a wedding or birthday party. Westover Plantation is inviting and alluring, without even a mention of its nefarious past of slavery.

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The Lost Piece of Stonewall: Evaluating Our Obsession with the Confederacy

by Mysia Perry

Mysia Perry is a rising sophomore from Richmond, VA with an intended major in Leadership Studies and minor in Sociology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  She is a part of the WILL* program, Peer Advisors and Mentors,  Planned Parenthood Generation Action, and she is both an Oldham and Oliver Hill Scholar. This is her first summer working on the Race & Racism Project on Team Oral History, and she is very excited to begin working for more equitable environment here at the University of Richmond.

CNN reported that, as of 2016, there were about 1,500 monuments to the Confederacy in public spaces throughout the United States. As I explored the internet searching for this number, I found myself wondering why we are so obsessed with the “losers.” America, and the South specifically, has developed this obsession with redefining how we see the Civil War because of all the shame that we hold as a result of its causes. From this fixation stems sayings such as “heritage not hate” and protests to removal of these monuments to the Confederacy. How are we in a country that has spent so much time condemning the controversial pasts of other countries, yet we have no fear in highlighting the scars of ourselves under false pretenses?

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Reading Against the Grain: Themes of Participation, Self-Determination, and Silence

by Kristi Mukk

Kristi Mukk is a rising senior from Mililani, Hawaii. She is majoring in Rhetoric and Communications and minoring in English. She is a dancer and communications director for Ngoma African Dance Company. This is her first time working for the Race & Racism Project as a Summer Fellow, and she is excited to continue her work in the course Digital Memory & the Archive in Fall 2018.

For my first week of research, I decided to go through The Web yearbooks from the 1960s and early 1970s to get a better idea of what the University was like before, during, and after integration and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One of the things that immediately stood out to me were the themes of the yearbooks. The very first yearbook I looked at was from 1960 and it featured Confederate Spidey, the unofficial mascot from around 1950 to 1970 of a spider dressed in a Confederate uniform and holding a Confederate flag, on both the cover of the yearbook and on nearly every single page. The noise of whiteness, racism, and Lost Cause ideology can overwhelm the voices of others. Whether it is the playing of the Confederate song “Dixie” at University events, the large number of Confederate flags documented in yearbook photographs at Greek lodges, sporting events, and Rat Week, or the yearbook photos containing racist imagery such as nooses and blackface, black students faced several obstacles in areas of student life at the University of Richmond. The Confederate flags and the song “Dixie” were a symbol of the Old South, celebration, and pride for white students, but for black students it was a symbol of the horrors of enslavement and racism.

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(Not Pictured): The Preparation for Oral History

by Jacob Roberson

Jacob Roberson is a rising senior on the varsity football team from Richmond, VA double majoring in psychology and sociology. He is a co-vice president of UR Mentoring Network, he is a part of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board, and during the 2017-2018 academic year he was an appointed student representative of the Presidential Advisory Committee for Sexual Violence Prevention and Response. Additionally, he has been inducted into numerous honor societies including Omicron Delta Kappa, Mortar Board, Alpha Kappa Delta, and Psi Chi. He joined the Race & Racism Project in the summer of 2018 as a part of Team Oral History and hopes to remain an active contributor and collaborator into and through the 2018-2019 school year.

Jacob Roberson completed his interview on June 18, 2018, after this post was written. Pictured here with his oral history interviewees and fellow interviewers. Left to right: Jacob Roberson, Marilyn Branch-Mitchell (’78), Ayele d’Almeida, Mysia Perry, and Greg Mitchell (’76**).

When I joined the Race & Racism Project, I was not quite sure what to expect. I knew there was going to be an oral history piece where we interview black alumni and it was this that excited me the most. I knew that in previous summers and classes, the bulk of the work within the project had been archival work to uncover and identify the racial history of the University of Richmond and the city itself. I also knew that that was not so much my cup of tea. Being out in the social word, talking, listening, eavesdropping, and interacting with people–these are my more refined skills. But of course an interview is only as good as its interviewer. Oral histories require in-depth knowledge of the interviewees, and you find much of this information by looking through the archives and historical records. However, what makes oral histories different is the fact that you’re hearing said person’s story from their perspective. Some might say autobiographies do the same, but there are at least three crucial differences: 1.) Not everyone likes to read, 2.) You can listen to an interview faster than you can read it, and most importantly in my opinion, 3.) You can better understand and grasp the essence of a story and history through word of mouth as opposed to words on a page. That all said, conducting interviews and producing oral histories can be more difficult than your “standard” archival work because of the fact that you must find a means of contacting those you wish to interview. And you can’t just reach out without any idea of who you’re talking to either. I quickly came to learn that the research done prior to the interview is just as important as setting up and conducting the interview itself.

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Research Begins!

by Tucker Shelley

Tucker Shelley is a rising senior at UR from Burlington, Vermont. He is a member of the Theta Chi fraternity on campus. In his free time, Tucker prefers staying active and listening to good music. This is his first summer working on the Race & Racism Project and will continue similar work next semester for Dr. Maurantonio in the “Digital Memory and the Archive” course.

This week our team of archivists for the Race & Racism Project here at the University of Richmond began our research. We have been tasked with creating a spreadsheet of descriptive metadata referring to archival documents. For those who don’t know, metadata is a word that means data about data. In the spreadsheets, we have been recording the title of the source, a short description, an identifier, a citation for the source, a screenshot of the text, and a list of subjects that the source relates to. Our team has started with old Collegian articles and yearbook pages. Personally, I have taken on a large list of Collegian articles.

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Connecting the Past and the Future

by Catherine Franceski

Catherine Franceski is rising junior from Washington, D.C. majoring in Philosophy, Politics, Economics & Law (PPEL) with concentration in politics and minoring in Rhetoric & Communication Studies. She is the president of Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity, and a member of the Westhampton College Honor Council. This is her second year working on the Race & Racism Project. Last summer, she focused on studying the lives and legacies of “hidden” black figures in Richmond, Virginia’s history.

This week, I began conducting research by analyzing old University of Richmond yearbooks. I began with the 1960s, thinking that it would be interesting to focus on a critical time for school integration and cultural shifts in the United States. I wanted to “read against the grain” in the yearbooks, meaning I would think critically about what was presented in the yearbooks, asking questions such as “who is not being represented in these photos?” or “what does this photo tell us about who has power at this institution or during this time?”

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Working Toward Archival Activism

by Mysia Perry

Mysia Perry is a rising sophomore from Richmond, VA with an intended major in Leadership Studies and minor in Sociology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  She is a part of the WILL* program, Peer Advisors and Mentors,  Planned Parenthood Generation Action, and she is both an Oldham and Oliver Hill Scholar. This is her first summer working on the Race & Racism Project on Team Oral History, and she is very excited to begin working for more equitable environment here at the University of Richmond.

My mock interview and oral history preparation research began with doing an investigation and delving deeper into what good oral histories and podcasts would be. This all is a really new phenomenon for me, one that I am extremely unfamiliar with, so I spent most of my day one research just exploring the different ways in which people could create and produce radio. A big part of me being able to decide where I want to go with my research was identifying how I wanted to frame it in the end. I used this time to help me formulate an end goal and identify an overarching theme to highlight throughout my interviews. I ultimately decided that I wanted to highlight the ways we are affected by the views of those that we should be able trust. Overall, this idea would focus on how roommates, staff, and faculty affected the lives of the minority students that first arrived on campus. Once I did that, it was easier to figure out where I wanted to focus on as part of my research and the questions that we should ask.

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Uncovering Untold Narratives of the University of Richmond

by Rena Xiao

Rena Xiao is a rising junior from New York City who has spent the majority of her life living abroad in Beijing, China. She is a Double Major in Geography and Global Studies with a Concentration in World Politics and Diplomacy, and a minor in WGSS.

The Race & Racism Project Oral History team has been busy conducting research for our upcoming interviews. The team will be interviewing Black alumni of the University of Richmond who attended this school in the 1970s and 80s. This past week has been dedicated to prep for the interview by drafting questions and learning as much as possible about our subjects. We have poured over online articles, yearbooks and archive materials to learn more about each individual and what campus was like back when they were students. I have spent the past few days looking into the life of Rayford L. Harris Jr, a student athlete and mathematics major who graduated with the Class of 1987.

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The Search for Gregory Carter

by Eden Wolfer

Eden Wolfer is a rising junior from Wilmington, Delaware. She is majoring in sociology and minoring in education. This is her first summer working for the Race & Racism Project and she is excited to learn from this experience.

Researching a person is harder than I thought it would be. Having grown up in an era where a quick search of my name pulls up things from my social media to presentations I did in high school, it is disconcerting to me that the same is not true for older generations. The sheer amount of raw data that the social media generation produces makes us easier to find–leaving us more vulnerable.

This week I started my research knowing that as much as I could wish that Google would have all my answers, the best place for me to start was looking through old yearbooks, if only to put a face to a name. I found Gregory Carter among the seniors in the class of 1978 fairly quickly, he was one of a handful of black men in the senior class after all, but this year’s yearbook did not have a senior directory and scouring the activities pages turned nothing up. Disappointed, I left the library feeling as if I would never find anything of value if I couldn’t even use a yearbook correctly. As a last ditch effort, I went back to my original instinct and just Googled him.

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