Tell the Whole Story – Why Oral Histories Matter

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.

Left to right: Ayele d’Almeida, Mysia Perry, Jacob Roberson, and Barry Greene.

I went back and read my second blog post about my preparation for interviews. I’ll tell you what, it’s hard to believe my summer with the Race & Racism Project is almost over. When I think back about what I expected to happen and what all has actually come about, I am nothing short of pleased, proud, and thankful for the opportunity to have been on the inaugural Team Oral History. In the weeks since conducting my first interview, I have sat in on three more interviews as well as had the pleasure of being the main interviewer of Barry Greene (’72), UR’s first black residential student. My approach to Mr. Greene’s interview was much different from my approach to my interview with the Mitchells because unlike either of the Mitchells, I already had some preexisting knowledge of who Barry Greene was.

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This Week in the Archive: Questioning Tradition–The Panty Raids

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.

“The co-ed shrieks as the panting wild eyed men, feverish with desire, grope for her panties…. The scene does not seem nearly as sordid when one realizes that the girl in question, along with the other members of her hall, are carrying on this ceremony from the second floor of their dorm, safely out of reach of their assailants, and armed with an arsenal of trash cans filled with water. Having thus prepared themselves after discerning the tell-tale pre-Panty Raid ritualistic eries from across the lake, the girls are more than equal to the task of cooling their male counterpart’s ardor.”

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On Solidarity with LGBTQIA Students, Staff, and Faculty

On Tuesday, September 11, a student chapter of the Federalist Society at the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law hosted a speaker event featuring Ryan T. Anderson, who has made a career of writing and speaking in support of homophobic and transphobic policies including (but not limited to) the promotion of violent and dangerous conversion therapy and the banning of trans people serving in the military. While we continue to have conversations around free speech on college campuses, we cannot ignore that continuing to grant platforms to ideas that promote the erasure of and violence towards socially marginalized and oppressed groups does not begin at the place of mutual respect required for “civil discourse.”

As a project which attempts to connect archival work at the University to the present-day challenges of building and fostering a more inclusive and equitable community, we wish to express our solidarity with and support for LGBTQIA students, staff, and faculty at the University of Richmond. As Lee Dyer, Associate Director for LGBTQ Life in Common Ground noted in his statement on Friday, September 7: “I want us as a campus community to keep in mind the safety and inclusion of transgender students. Events such as this one are threats to the safety and well-being of transgender students. It is beyond emotionally and mentally taxing to be made to continually defend your existence to those who do not opine your existence as a human being is valid….It is important that we think about the lasting effects these type of occurrences have on our trans community. That type of emotional and mental fatigue is not fair to impose on someone simply for existing.”

The Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project aims to document the history and present of marginalized voices on our campus. LGBTQIA individuals and in particular trans and non-binary individuals and communities have been systematically silenced and erased from history and from the archive, and this erasure contributes to societal microaggressions, restrictive and harmful legislation and medical policies, along with harassment and physical violence that often ends with the murder or suicide of trans individuals. And since this form of violence does not exist in a vacuum, but intersects with other marginalized identities, it is vital to note that the most at-risk group for lethal violence in the LGBTQIA community are transwomen of color. Continuing to put the identity, existence, and civil rights of LGBTQIA people up for public debate contributes to this violence and erasure.

We are heartened by and strongly support the measures law students planned for the event, from collaborating to challenge the false pretenses of this lecture, to a non-violent protest that centered the loss of life associated with transphobia, to creating a safe and reaffirming space for people to spend time away from the lecture. More programming is being planned for the future. As a university striving to become an inclusive and thriving community, we need to consider what thriving means for our students, staff, and faculty—all students, staff, and faculty. The Race & Racism Project aims to be a space in which every individual at UR may see themselves in the history and the future of this institution, and affirms the work of students and their support systems which seek to create social change on this campus.

The Race & Racism at UR Project Advisory Group
Dominique Harrington, Class of 2019
Julian Hayter, Jepson School of Leadership Studies
Patricia Herrera, Department of Theatre & Dance, American Studies
Glyn Hughes, Director of Common Ground
Lynda Kachurek, Rare Books & Special Collections, Boatwright Library
Nicole Maurantonio, Department of Rhetoric & Communication Studies, American Studies
Robert Nelson, Digital Scholarship Lab, Boatwright Library, and American Studies
Bedelia Richards, Sociology and Anthropology Department
Irina Rogova, Project Archivist

The Importance of Marginalized Narratives

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.

The following blog post contains some contentious language. Please consider the intent of its use as you read on.

Left to right: Mysia Perry, Ayele d’Almeida, and S. Joanne Morris.

When I began my work on the Race & Racism Project, I expected completely overt and outright instances of prejudice and discrimination. I expected there to be black face and nooses and swastikas and instances upon instances when people called those before me a nigger. I didn’t think about how the racist views I witness must derive from the racist views and discriminatory experiences of the past marginalized groups. I wish I’d paid more attention to the details, where racism lies in the more subtle, socially acceptable forms. While I conducted and assisted with the interviews, I wish I had listened more to how the experiences that aren’t completely outright and direct affected the alumni. I found that as I worked more and more on the interviews, it was easier to pull out those things. In the first interviews, there were things I wish I had dug deeper into. I find that because I was so caught up on the things that did not happen, I didn’t listen closely enough to the things that did. I didn’t focus on the connections between the stories.

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A Final Reflection

by Ayele d’Almeida

Ayele d’Almeida is a Political Science and Leadership double-major from Bloomington, Minnesota. Her work at Common Ground, the University of Richmond’s social justice initiative informed her decision to pursue the Race & Racism Project as a summer fellow. She hopes that through her fellowship and continued connection with the project, she will learn more about the University of Richmond. Ayele believes that the Race & Racism Project will also help later in life – as the project forces her to question institutions she may benefits from. She hoped to focus her research on black faculty and the presence of black students in white-dominated clubs and spaces.

Phi Beta Sigma, 1983, featuring oral history interviewee Stan Jones.

My second blog post this summer focused largely on questions of social spaces. I wanted to look at whether or not the absence of adequate and inclusive spaces forced black students to seek options outside of the University of Richmond campus. From what I have gathered from my oral history interviews with black alums, many black students went home to spend time with their families on the weekends.  Social events consisted of small gatherings in the basement of Thomas Hall, a residence hall on campus. When Phi Beta Sigma, the University’s first black fraternity came to campus, social events were hosted by the fraternity in conjunction with the Student Organization for Black Awareness (SOBA).

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Hearing Sentiments From Black Alumni that Still Resonate

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.

Rena Xiao and Eden Wolfer during their phone interview with Dr. Jesse Moore.

Uncovering the narratives of black alumni who attended the University of Richmond, a predominately white school, in the mid to late 20th century, I expected to hear brazen, explicit incidents of racism and discrimination. The University is geographically located in a state that struggles to move past its history. The Richmond City landscape is dotted with tributes to figures such as Robert E.Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Digging through the archives I did find many instances of racist language and Confederate imagery that were despicable but not shocking. However, in the process of collecting oral histories, many black alumni did not share experiences of explicit or violent acts borne out of hatred. Rather a common theme within many of the oral histories were stories of social marginalisation. Black students on campus during the 1970s and 80s felt ignored by the dominant, white population and were isolated from regular social life. These small daily acts of exclusion left a deep impact on these students and shaped their past and current relationship with the University of Richmond.

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This Week in the Archive: White Fragility

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.

Throughout my journey through old Collegian articles, I’ve seen all kinds of articles. Some leave me scratching my head, while others just get my blood boiling. The article I am expressing my opinion on falls under the latter group. The article in question is titled “MSU’s name change misdirected.” It was written by a white Richmond college student and Collegian contributing editor by the name of Scott Shepard in the year 1993.

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I’m a Nervous Wreck but I’m Proud of Myself

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.

The first interview that I ran the audio technology for was Team Oral History’s practice interview with Ms. Robin Mundle and Ms. Iria Jones. I forgot to hit record for over half of the interview. I was assured that it was okay, that’s why we have practice runs, that it was my first time. It’s been over a month and I’m still embarrassed.

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This Week in the Archive: UR Alumni Outrage over Lecturer Dick Gregory

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.

The following blog post contains some contentious language. Please consider the intent of its use as you read on.

Archival work sometimes requires you to act like a detective by following a series of artifacts and connecting all the dots in order to uncover a story. My first archival detective journey started with a full-page photo of a black man I found in The Web 1971 yearbook. During this time, it was quite rare to find minorities represented in the yearbooks, let alone have a dedicated full-page photograph. The speaker’s name was not mentioned in the caption of the photo, so I emailed our Project Archivist, Irina Rogova, to see if she could identify the man. She informed me that he was Dick Gregory, a black comedian, author, actor, activist, and civil rights leader who came to speak on campus in December 1970 as part of a lecture series. This sparked my interest, so I decided to look through the Collegian newspaper archives to find more background and context.

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Outright Confusion: My Afternoon at the Museum of the Confederacy

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.

If you did not attend school in the United States, you most likely have not learned much about the Civil War. Everything I know about American history mostly starts around World War I. For a U.S citizen, I know embarrassingly little history about the county I am from. I attend school in Richmond, Virginia, a city where perhaps some of the most notable events that have shaped America occurred in this city. From Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech at St. John’s church in 1741 to being the capital of the confederacy, every corner of the city is packed full with historic events. My international school curriculum did not touch upon the founding of the country or the war that would divide it in two. I entered the American Civil War Museum as a novice, eager to learn with the knowledge base equivalent of a foreigner or international tourist.

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