Westhampton College Traditions

Over the course of summer 2018, three A&S Summer Research Fellows conducted research into the University Archives at the Virginia Baptist Historical Society to expand the archival holdings of the Race & Racism Project. At the end of the summer fellowship, each student was tasked with doing a deep-dive research on one topic in order to create a digital exhibit or podcast on the subject.

After going through decades of University of Richmond yearbooks, rising junior Catherine Franceski focused her digital exhibit on Westhampton College traditions and their contribution to forming an image of white, upper class womanhood on campus. In her own words:

Traditions, such as Ring Dance, help connect generations, and highlight values that the group considers to be important. Through time, many of Westhampton College’s traditions have slowly faded away. These traditions, although relics of the past, provide a glimpse into the college’s past, forming the white, upper class definition of womanhood on campus. This exhibit features four Westhampton College traditions or organizations: The Women’s Lifestyle Committee, the annual Panty Raids, May Day, and Rat Week. It will examine aspects of each that contributed to a campus culture of racism, classism, and sexism. 

Click here to check out her exhibit entitled “Westhampton College Traditions” on memory.richmond.edu

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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A Tribute to the Enslaved at Montpelier

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.

Montpelier is the estate and plantation home of James and Dolley Madison. It is where James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, penned several invaluable documents in America’s history, such as the Virginia Plan, which would provide the groundwork for the U.S. Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. Furthermore, it was also home to a population of more than 100 enslaved persons who waited upon the Madisons and their visitors, maintained the mansion, and labored in the fields.

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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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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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Ring Dance: Gaining a New Perspective

[For the first blog post of the Summer 2018 A&S Research Fellowship, students were tasked with exploring the existing collection of the Race & Racism at UR Project at memory.richmond.edu and reflecting on the materials they encountered there.]

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.

When I came to the University of Richmond in the fall of 2016, I thought I knew the school very well. My mother had attended UR, my brother was a current student, and other family members had different connections to the school. I had grown up outside of D.C., coming to campus for reunions, family weekends, and other events. Although I knew a bit about the history of the school and the social culture of campus, I did not know anything about the history of the school’s interaction with the city of Richmond, the rocky road to integration, or the black student experience.

I worked on the Race & Racism Project last summer compiling hidden narratives about inspirational figures in the city of Richmond’s history and learning about the history of black students on campus. This included gaining a whole new insight into the isolation and exclusion black students have felt, and continue to feel, on campus. When I returned to school in the fall, I realized my work on the project last summer allowed be to become a more culturally competent and aware student, as well as a better ally for students of color on this campus.

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Maymont’s Unsung Heroes

by Catherine Franceski

As I walked through Maymont’s gates on a balmy summer morning, I imagined that I must have felt exactly as many visitors did around the turn of the 20th century– full of awe and wonder. Today, Maymont encompasses a Gilded Age mansion, a petting zoo, and extensive gardens and grounds. Acquired in 1886 by James and Sallie May Dooley, Maymont, an 100 acre estate on the banks of the James River, was undoubtedly one of the largest properties owned in Richmond. James Dooley was a confederate major in his youth and later became a prominent lawyer and businessman. His wife, Sallie, grew up on a Virginia plantation and later wrote “Dem Good Ole Days,” a collection of short works glorifying the Antebellum period written from the perspective of an enslaved person. The couple, having no heirs, donated Maymont to the city of Richmond after Sallie’s death in 1925.

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An Ironic Approach

by Catherine Franceski

Powhite Parkway, Matoaka Road, Appomattox Street… These are just a few Richmond area streets named after indigenous peoples. As part of my research for the Race & Racism Project, I read Thomas Mustian’s Facts and Legends of Richmond Area Streets. While reading, I was surprised by the number of street names in the Richmond area that have been named for indigenous tribes. To understand the irony and oddity of this phenomenon, it is important to have and understanding the group’s history and legacy in the city of Richmond.

The indigenous population and white settlers in Virginia have had an icy and, at many times, bloody relationship. According to Virginius Dabney in his book Richmond: The Story of a City, the struggle between whites and indigenous peoples started as early as the very first English incursion on the James River into the area that we know as Richmond today. This expedition, led by Christopher Newport, was immediately confronted by indigenous peoples at Richmond, where Newport decided it would be too dangerous to continue further onto land. The explorers left for Jamestown, where many of them were consequently murdered by indigenous peoples. This was the beginning of a hostile relationship that continued for many years. One of the most violent episodes occurred “in 1675 when a Stafford County man and his son were murdered. The treachery by white leaders, who slew several Indian chiefs contrary to a solemn agreement, caused the redskins to go on a wild orgy of killing in the frontier settlements. The slaughter lasted for months, and some five hundred men, women, and children were slain, often after the most dreadful tortures” (7). Here, Dabney, the author, uses outdated terminology such as “redskin,” even while writing in the 1970s, when sports teams were already beginning to change their names and symbols from Native American iconography. More interestingly, Dabney was a liberal writer and opponent of segregation who served at the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch for many years. Perhaps his word choice is indicative of sentiment towards indigenous peoples in Virginia at the time due to the enduring legacy of this violent history.

It is important to remember that the white settlers engaged in land theft from indigenous tribes, creating power structures which have dispossessed and subjugated those populations and kept them in marginalized positions for centuries. Because it is rare that oppressors names things after the groups they have oppressed, this, coupled with the violent relationship between the two groups, further raises questions about the abundance of streets named after indigenous tribes. Although I began conducting my research simply looking for stories of self-determined marginalized persons, I noticed these peculiarities and began looking at my research through the lens of irony, trying to find any details that seemed to contradict what I would expect based on facts I had gathered. I found that by focusing on history through the lens of irony, more questions arise and more subtleties are added to an already nuanced history.

Perhaps the streets were just named indigenous names because that’s what the area was always called. Or, perhaps we will never figure out why exactly the streets are named the way they are. Nevertheless, it is ironic that the white people who named these streets would name them after a group they engaged in such violent struggle with for so long. In any event, noticing the irony in this event provokes even more questions, such as, what exactly is in a name anyways?

Catherine Franceski is a rising sophomore at the University of Richmond majoring in Philosophy, Politics, Economics & Law. She is working on the Race and Racism Project in partnership with Untold RVA during Summer 2017 as an A&S Summer Fellow.

Rethinking Community

by Catherine Franceski

Have you ever thought about how unique college dormitory community living is? And no, I don’t mean to conjure up memories of messy roommates, or those funky things called “shower shoes.” To me, the community that creates the dorm building is unique and unreplicable in that all types of people, of all races and identities, are living in such close proximity that tends not to happen too often in other residential communities and neighborhoods. I know that personally my neighborhood back home is somewhat diverse, but not to the extent that college campus dorm living is. Unfortunately, the legacy of racism and segregation has endured into many neighborhoods and communities in the US, and especially so in Richmond, Virginia.

Although Richmond had been residentially segregated since the end of slavery, in the early 1900s the Richmond City Council began codifying racial segregation into law. Although some of these laws were struck down by the Supreme Court, clandestine laws with different, more allowable stated purposes other than segregation continued to rule the land. For example, during this time, people whom the state prohibited from marrying could not live next to each other, and at the time, Virginia prohibited marriage between black and white residents. (Campbell, Richmond’s Unhealed History, 143).

Other tactics such as “redlining” continued to keep areas racially segregated. “Redlining” consisted of assigning a grade to different neighborhoods. One of the factors used to assign this grade was race. This made it harder to acquire credit for mortgages in these areas, further contributing to the segregation problem. These wrongdoings only began to be corrected in 1971 when a non-profit organization, Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) of Virginia, began challenging segregated sale and rental properties (143). Structural racism in housing has constructed the geography of metropolitan Richmond, the effects of which are concerningly enduring.

From UR’s One Book, One Richmond’s book of the year, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, I had been aware of the racial discrimination and segregation in real estate that occurs all over the US. Although this particular book focuses on several housing segregation issues intertwined with race in Milwaukee, the book also addresses other factors such as gender, domestic violence, socioeconomic status, drug abuse, sexual violence, and educational opportunities which also play a part in keeping residential areas racially segregated. This problem is not isolated to specific cities or specific institutions, but rather covers a large amount of area because of its intersectional nature. Segregation in housing is not only because of race, but also, for example, because of socioeconomic strata that have separated different groups of people for decades. When former enslaved persons were emancipated, they could not afford housing amongst white people, if they could potentially afford housing at all. Today, people of color own homes at a staggeringly lower rates than white people. In 2014 in Virginia, 72.7% of white people were homeowners compared to 48.8% of people of color. Housing is a symptom of broader issues such as racial and economic inequality.

Although some of the issues listed above prevent people from attending the University of Richmond in the first place, the university does attempt to get students from a broad array of backgrounds to contribute to a diverse community, including in dormitory living. Although students may begin to self-segregate as sophomores and upperclassmen because more choose to select their roommates than did as freshman, I personally have not noticed this trend emerging. Perhaps the assorted living-learning communities available to sophomores allow for the continued integration of diverse students in residential dormitories beyond freshman year. So, next year when I’m thinking about how much more comfortable my bed is at home and how I wish I was there, I may pause for a second to think about what an unreplicable experience dorm living really is.

Catherine Franceski is a rising sophomore at the University of Richmond majoring in Philosophy, Politics, Economics & Law. She is working on the Race and Racism Project in partnership with Untold RVA during Summer 2017 as an A&S Summer Fellow.

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