This Week in the Archive: What Makes a Messenger?

by Gabby Kiser

Gabby Kiser is a junior from Williamsburg, Virginia majoring in English and minoring in History. This is her first summer with the Race & Racism Project. She is also the general manager of WDCE 90.1 FM, a design editor for The Messenger, and a Bunk content wrangler.

Over the years, the Messenger literary magazine has had its ups and downs on campus. Not only has it encountered numerous periods of disinterest from students; it’s regularly been the target of a great amount of criticism. A lot of this criticism has condemned the magazine’s lack of humor and, as one 1957 Collegian article put it, “nebulous stories and poetry.” In 1960, for example, Collegian columnist Edie Graves called the average Messengera total loss” and begged for a change. Still, when the magazine became the satirical Messenger Lampoon in 1977, a number of students were incensed that the campus would be without a literary magazine, even for just a year. One Collegian article from 1955, though, takes the cake as the strangest statement I’ve discovered of what the Messenger is and should be.

“Now You Know: Messenger Voices Thoughts” by Harold Gibson is framed as an explanation of a vague description of the Messenger found in Student Handbooks. Said description mentions the magazine’s “editorial policy of literary quality” as its defining characteristic. Gibson takes it upon himself, then, to explain what “literary quality” means by delving into an argument of what counts as literary realism and attacking work that “approaches the vulgar just for the sake of the vulgar.” The Messenger, he alleges, accepts none of this “pornographic trash.” And though he assures readers that the Messenger isn’t “high brow” and urges student participation, his article comes off as aggressive rather than welcoming.

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Plantation Tours and Erasing Black Spaces

by Gabby Kiser

Gabby Kiser is a junior from Williamsburg, Virginia majoring in English and minoring in History. This is her first summer with the Race & Racism Project. She is also the general manager of WDCE 90.1 FM, a design editor for The Messenger, and a Bunk content wrangler.

Coming from Williamsburg, VA, I’ve taken my fair share of plantation tours. On the way to Tuckahoe Plantation, which is 14 minutes from the University of Richmond, I expected a familiar setup. Particularly, I anticipated any information on the plantation’s enslaved Africans to be part of a self-guided grounds tour, fed by a few words acknowledging their presence on a sign or two. Tuckahoe provided even less than this bare minimum that I’d expected. Maybe, though, their silence says more than anything about how plantation tours treat the history of enslavement.

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How Long Shall the Wicked Triumph?

by Gabby Kiser

Gabby Kiser is a junior from Williamsburg, Virginia majoring in English and minoring in History. This is her first summer with the Race & Racism Project. She is also the general manager of WDCE 90.1 FM, a design editor for The Messenger, and a Bunk content wrangler.

On the 17th floor of the VCU Medical Center’s West Hospital rests an unexpected beast. Sure, there’s a plaque in the 1st floor lobby that states the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel is just an elevator trip away, but, if I hadn’t done research before showing up, I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated seeing its marble archway behind an unmarked wooden door, sharing the hall with an employee-only restroom and a spattering of what appear to be used waiting-room chairs.

The bits of information I could find online about this place were from three sources: a fairly recent blog post by Selden Richardson in the Shockhoe Examiner, a response from Richardson to a reader, and a MoveOn petition that appears to have gone online in 2015. There are no tours, no maps, and no information at the site aside from memorial plaques placed by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1960 upon the chapel’s opening. The room has lights at both end, but its pews lie in darkness. West Hospital doesn’t even hold patients anymore, and narrowly evaded demolition about ten years ago. Still, its chapel is open for whoever wants to see it.

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“I Am Alone”: Minority Students’ Literary Expression

by Gabby Kiser

Gabby Kiser is a junior from Williamsburg, Virginia majoring in English and minoring in History. This is her first summer with the Race & Racism Project. She is also the general manager of WDCE 90.1 FM, a design editor for The Messenger, and a Bunk content wrangler.

Researching the documents held in the University’s archive reaffirms that many things on this campus have stayed the same. What’s shown in these yearbooks, these photos, and these Collegian articles is so physically close to where I sit today. I’ve found myself wondering if the pictured room in Gray Court is the same one I lived in last year. I’ve looked up while I’m in the Tyler Haynes Commons to get the same vantage point captured in a certain shot. This spatial inseparability makes it all the more painful that the Gray dorm room in the picture has a Confederate flag on the wall, or that my view of the Commons is nearly identical, except for a banner for the gender-norm obsessed Women’s Lifestyle Committee. Just how far am I from the inequity enforced in these photos?

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More than Before

by Gabby Kiser

Gabby Kiser is a junior from Williamsburg, Virginia majoring in English and minoring in History. This is her first summer with the Race & Racism Project. She is also the general manager of WDCE 90.1 FM, a design editor for The Messenger, and a Bunk content wrangler.

During my first visit to the University of Richmond campus in 2016, my mom commented “A lot has changed since I visited here.” She had visited the university two decades earlier when she was considering colleges. She told me that she hadn’t even applied to UR because of how divided it seemed, both by gender and by race. I never asked too much more about the topic, though, and she never brought it up. We were convinced that something had happened between our visits to make the University of Richmond a new, more inclusive place. I often forget that this was my introduction to the University.

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