Commemorating the Past for a Better Future: The 50th Anniversary of Residential Desegregation at the University of Richmond

by Dom Harrington

Dom Harrington is a senior from Indianapolis, Indiana majoring in American Studies and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies (WGSS). She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2016 and is currently serving as an advisory board member and as the chair of the 50th Anniversary of Residential Desegregation Committee. As a student, she is also an Oldham Scholar, Oliver Hill Scholar, member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board, a research assistant for Dr. Kristjen Lundberg, a peer adviser and mentor, and a Bunk contributor. She hopes to go to graduate school for mental health counseling.

This year, 2018, marks some momentous “fiftieth” anniversaries for this country.   It marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassinations of Sen. Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., along with the fiftieth anniversary of the first interracial kiss to air on American television.  However, 2018 is an especially important year for this university because it marks the fiftieth anniversary of residential desegregation on the University of Richmond’s campus. I’ve spent the past few months working with dedicated students trying to tackle the significant task of commemorating this occasion, and I’m incredibly excited for all that is yet to come this school year.  With this, I’d like to thank the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project for giving me the space to share my thoughts on why commemoratory events surrounding this pivotal anniversary are not only nice, but necessary.

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Lemon Project Symposium Presentation: Faculty Response to Institutional Change by Dominique Harrington

Photograph courtesy of The Lemon Project at the College of William & Mary.

On March 16, 2018, five undergraduate students who have worked with the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project had the opportunity to present at the Lemon Project Symposium at the College of William and Mary. The panel, entitled “Seeing the Unseen and Telling the Untold: Institutions, Individuals, and Desegregating the University of Richmond,” was moderated by Dr. Nicole Maurantonio and featured Dominique Harrington, Madeleine Jordan-Lord, Elizabeth Mejía-Ricart, Jennifer Munnings, & Destiny Riley. Below you will find the text and slide images of Dominique Harrington’s presentation, focusing on the research she conducted as a 2017 A&S Summer Research Fellow with the project. Click here to read more of her writing from last summer, and here to explore her exhibit “Faculty Response to Institutional and National Change (1968-1973).

Dominique “Dom” Harrington is a rising senior from Indianapolis, IN majoring in American Studies and minoring in Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  She is a part of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board, Students Creating Opportunities, Pride, and Equality (SCOPE), and she is both an Oldham and Oliver Hill Scholar. She has worked on the Race & Racism Project for two years and looks forward to continuing to work for the project during her final year at the University. Last summer, she completed a digital exhibit on faculty response to institutional and national changes from 1968-1973.
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Faculty Response to Institutional and National Change (1968-1973)

Over ten weeks this summer, 10 A&S Summer Fellows, 1 Spider Intern, 5 faculty mentors, and 1 community partner (Untold RVA) collaborated on The Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project. Final projects focused on the Race & Racism Project included exhibits, podcasts, and digital stories. Over the next few weeks, we will feature these works.

Dominique “Dom” Harrington is a junior majoring in American Studies and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She worked with the Race & Racism project for the Fall 2016 seminar in the course Digital Memory & the Archive, where she developed an exhibit entitled “George Modlin’s Segregated University of Richmond” with team members Bailey Duplessie and Madeleine Jordan-Lord. This summer, she continued working with the project remotely from her hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana–she created some 60 individual digital items for our Omeka digital collection and contributed blog posts, including several site visit posts highlighting black history in Indianapolis.

Dom’s final project was an exhibit entitled “Faculty Response to Institutional and National Change (1968-1973).” A bit about the topic in her own words:

To date, the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond project has examined several key players to the university campus: college presidents, students, and staff.  However, a major group of folks that have the power to shape the culture of the school is missing: faculty and administrative staff.  To look at their role at the University, I chose a five-year window, 1968-1973, defined by change for both the university and the nation to explore exactly how these figures fit into this project. In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, racially restrictive covenants became illegal in real estate, two Olympic athletes staged the iconic silent protest by raising their fists instead of placing their hands on their chests during a medal presentation ceremony, and Star Trek aired the country’s first televised interracial kiss.  A Virginia case, Green v. New Kent, made it all the up to the Supreme Court where the justices ruled that “freedom of choice” was not a legal response to Brown v. Board of Education as it was not a sufficient method to integrate the school system.  That same year, the University of Richmond enrolled its first residential black student, Barry Greene, on its main campus.  Barrier shattering changes filled the rest of these years as well, particularly with the rise of liberatory movements for women, black folks, and the LGBTQ community to the anti-war movements that swept the nation.

Explore Dom’s exhibit and others via the project’s digital collection at memory.richmond.edu

This Week in the Archive: SOBA and Progress

by Dominique Harrington

When I’ve attempted to explain to people what I’ve been doing this summer, I’ve gotten a few typical responses.  First, I get the generic, “That’s so cool! Good luck!”  The next one provokes more of a conversation, “That’s interesting, but what’s the point?”  However, the response I’ve received most frequently is, “Wow, that must be pretty depressing!”  When I explain that I am grappling with the University of Richmond’s racial history, I think they probably thought that I would be faced with more violent instances of racism during the Jim Crow era.  However, I’ve mostly gone through letters to President Modlin and Academic Departmental Reports; I haven’t witnessed anything as egregious as one might expect in the former capital of the Confederacy from 1946-1971.  Still, I’ve found myself quite disheartened more times than I anticipated — not because of what I saw, but because of what I didn’t see: progress.

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Site in the Spotlight: IPS Crispus Attucks Museum

by Dominique Harrington

The Indiana Public School (IPS) Crispus Attucks Museum, a museum which commemorates the first black high school in Indianapolis, was founded in 1998 to preserve the school’s rich history.  Despite being next to the Crispus Attucks High School’s gym and auditorium, I never noticed that the museum was there.  The museum is attached to the school, on its south side, closest to the sporting fields.  Equipped with my phone to take pictures, a pen, and my notebook, I walked up to the door of the museum.

The exterior of the museum features this painting that places Crispus Attucks, with the “CA” at the top, with a grander narrative of African and African-American history as displayed through the African imagery present.

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This Week in the Archive: A Reflection for the Change Conformers, Absurd Plastic Hippies, and System Dissenters

by Dominique Harrington

I’ve read, Jarett Drake’s, “Documenting Dissent in the Contemporary College Archive: Finding our Function within the Liberal Arts”, a few times, as I worked with the University of Richmond’s Race & Racism Project this past fall. I’m more and more convinced as to the inherent liberatory and reconciliatory nature of archives each time I read it.  Towards the end of this piece, Drake discussed having an Ida B. Wells quote printed on a t-shirt, “Those who commit murders write the reports…”  However, it wasn’t until my third time reading this piece that I was inspired to looked up the context of the quote.  It is an excerpt from an anti-lynching speech that Wells gave on February 13, 1893, which was later published in Our Day magazine in May of that same year.  Many folks are familiar with the popular phrase, “History is told by those who win.”  However, with this quote, Wells offered a slightly different manifestation of this notion. Rather than looking at history through a lens of triumph or defeat, she astutely points out that we must also look at historical figures as those actively perpetuating systems of oppression, whether it be as intentional and explicit as lynching, or whether it is an instance where the Dean of a conservative women’s college submitted a report sharing her appraisal of the untraditional direction she felt that her students were drifting.

Dean Keith and Westhampton College Students
Dean Keith and Westhampton College Students

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Site in the Spotlight: A Displaced Church and an Erased History

by Dominique Harrington

Before beginning my fellowship, I sat down and researched sites of black history in Indianapolis in order to prepare for the community engagement aspect of the project.  However, despite the size and rich history of the city, I only found three sites: The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Crispus Attucks High School, and Indiana Avenue & The Madame C.J. Walker Theater  (I will be visiting each of them over the duration of this summer).

Bethel AME Church
Bethel AME Church
Crispus Attucks High School
Crispus Attucks High School
Madame CJ Walker Theater
Madame CJ Walker Theater

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The American Dilemma of Race and Progress

By Dom Harrington

My family has just concluded a four-hour conversation about race in America — from vehemently disagreeing about the value or lack thereof of #BlackLivesMatter to stumbling upon the infamous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Malcolm X debate to finally ending with our different conclusions regarding whether or not the black community has achieved equality.

This past week, I had the distinct privilege of witnessing my older brother, Claude Lee Harrington II, graduate with honors from Washington University in St. Louis.  I was joined by my parents, my aunt, and my two maternal grandmothers.  My family has been in this country for generations, as far back as the 18th century.  Therefore, both my maternal and paternal sides were slaves until 1865.  Then, they were sharecroppers.  Then my grandparents, on both sides, moved from Mississippi to Indiana as a part of the Great Migration.  Therefore, it was an honor to attend this momentous occasion, hands interlocked, eyes swelling with tears as my brother’s name was called to get his diploma.

In our conversation, my father claimed that the very fact that my brother graduated from college and is going to law school is progress and shows that the Civil Rights Movement was a success.  In response, I asked the questions that prompted this post: What do real success and progress mean?  Who determines the answers to these questions?  These questions made me reflect not only on the collections I’ve analyzed through this project but how the work that we are doing adds to this enduring struggle for justice and progress.

This past fall I worked on President Modlin’s Papers. In the beginning, my team members and I had a hard time figuring out what exactly to do with the documents contained in the folder we were assigned. However, this course and project taught us that it’s incumbent upon archivists to be able to read against the grain and challenge dominant narratives that rest within the documents that they are provided. In the end, we examined this collection with a critical lens to see if integration was “inevitable” at the University of Richmond or not.  Even though my team focused on this university and its road to integration, our work informs the history of this country and its never-ending road to progress.  This is exactly the reason why I am thrilled to be working with this project this summer.

Like graduations, the Race and Racism project will mean different things to different people.  To me, as a black female student, this project is both cementing my story, and those who have come before me, unheard and unknown. Dominant narratives like that of progress need to be challenged, especially now in the age of alternative facts.  The thing about progress is, to know how far we have come, or how far we have progressed, we must know where we have been.  To much dismay, I’m not convinced that the majority of this country knows as much about where we have been, regarding our racial history than they should.  With an acknowledgment of where we have been, we could have much more fruitful conversations about where we are today. It is 2017, and we still can’t agree on whether or not the Civil War was about slavery or the states’ rights. Therefore, it is 2017, and we have Americans protesting the removal of statues of Confederate war heroes. Perhaps if the country, as a whole, were more knowledgeable about the history of slavery and the ideologies in which it was grounded that persist today, we wouldn’t have this issue.

It is certainly progress that my brother, a black male, has graduated college. Is it true progress if he will have to be twice as good, in every aspect, for the rest of his life?  Progress isn’t linear or unidimensional. It’s messy, and it’s difficult, but so are race and racism. Therefore, we have work to do.  We must ask the right questions, challenge the right institutions, and uncover the stories voices of those silenced and devalued, we can take down as many monuments as we want and talk until we lose our voices, but until we truthfully and critically understand where we as a country have been with race and racism, actual progress is impossible. So,  what better place to start with these questions than the site of memory that is the archive?

Dominique “Dom” Harrington is a rising junior majoring in American Studies and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  She worked with the Race and Racism project for the Fall  2016 seminar, Digital Memory and the Archive. This summer, she is thrilled to continue working with this project remotely from her hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana.

 

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