The Damage of the Affirmative Action Myth by Eden Wolfer

Over the course of summer 2018, five A&S Summer Research Fellows conducted a series of interviews with University of Richmond black alumni. Expanding on previous research (see memory.richmond.edu) conducted in University Archives at the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, the practice of oral histories seeks to grow what is held in the archival record, to give voice to the people and stories that have not been heard and/or included in the historical record. As the Baylor University Institute for Oral History explains: “Oral history provides a fuller, more accurate picture of the past by augmenting the information provided by public records, statistical data, photographs, maps, letters, diaries, and other historical materials. Eyewitnesses to events contribute various viewpoints and perspectives that fill in the gaps in documented history, sometimes correcting or even contradicting the written record. Interviewers are able to ask questions left out of other records and to interview people whose stories have been untold or forgotten. At times, an interview may serve as the only source of information available about a certain place, event, or person.”

After conducting a series of interviews, students were tasked with creating short podcasts from the stories they heard. Special thanks to Kelley Libby for joining our team this summer and providing instruction production assistance for these student works.

On July 2, 2018, Eden Wolfer (’20) and Rena Xiao (’20) conducted an oral history interview with Iria Jones (W’87).

Click here to listen to the entire podcast produced and narrated by Eden Wolfer from the one hour interview in which Wolfer considers affirmative action policies in the context of Jones’ experience as a student at the University of Richmond in the 1980s.

Stay tuned to this blog and our social media (TwitterInstagramFacebook) to find out when complete oral histories are available!

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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Poplar Forest: A Tribute to John Hemings

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 entrance to the Poplar Forest plantation home is well marked from the residential road in Lynchburg, but it is really just a long gravel road through the woods with an occasional glimpse of a golf course to the right and empty fields to the left. There is nothing to indicate you did not drastically mess up somewhere in the last two and a half hour trip. Eventually, the trees part and you can see the beautiful brick facade of Poplar Forest. The property consists of a gift shop, two barns, converted offices, and the actual plantation home; all making up Thomas Jefferson’s retreat plantation.

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Chimborazo Medical Museum

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.

I had never been to Church Hill until going for this site visit–exploring the city is hard when relying entirely on University of Richmond for transportation. So I asked my friend, a history major with just enough interest in the Civil War, to make a museum trip on a hot afternoon (a better plan than laying in bed), to come with me to the Chimborazo Medical Museum. We got lunch and walked the five blocks to the museum.

We got to the park and saw on the top of the hill a building labeled Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitors Center. I was greeted by an older man, “Welcome to Chimborazo! If you’re looking for a battlefield, I’m sorry but this is it.” I asked what he meant and he explained that most of the historical tourists that came to visit were looking for a battlefield, the name of the building being a misnomer. He explained that the first floor of the building was the museum, “we’ve got some pretty gory stuff in that room there, a fifteen minute video, and a model of what the hospital would have looked like back in the day. This building wasn’t the hospital you see it was actually a weather station, used to launch weather balloons off the roof.”

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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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Learning about My PWI

[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 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.

PWI is short for “Predominantly White Institution” and is used to describe both modern day higher education institutions in which white students make up 50% or more of the student population, and to reference institutions which have been historically white, in contrast to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). (More on PWIs can be found in the Encyclopedia of African-American Education, 1996).  

When I was starting to look at colleges, it was easy to look at the provided statistics about diversity and think that was enough. If there was a significant percentage of non-white students on campus that was all I could ask for from my school. My experience at college would not be affected by how people of color experienced campus, and obviously this is a very privileged position to be able to work from. Thinking about it now, two years into a sociology degree later, I am not sure why a 17 year old would think to look for information about the experience of students of color when we have been socialized into thinking a number of diverse students is enough to show a school is not racist.

If someone were to try and begin to look for the concealed racial history of the University of Richmond without knowing to look at the Race & Racism Project website, there are no easily found resources. The school website brushes over the history with integration and completely ignores the administration’s deep resistance. Overall, while attending this school little about its racially charged past has ever been brought to my attention outside of conversations with people involved in the Race & Racism Project at UR.

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