A Feather in Their Cap: The Story of Barry Greene (R’72)

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 12, 2018, Ayele d’Almeida (’20), Mysia Perry (’21), and Jacob Roberson (’19) conducted an oral history interview with Barry Greene (R’72).

Click here to listen to the entire podcast produced and narrated by Jacob Roberson from the one hour and forty minute interview in which Greene discusses his experience as the first black residential student at the University of Richmond.

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

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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Gone but Not Forgotten

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.

On June 16, the Saturday before Juneteenth, I had the privilege of visiting Monticello—the former home of the “Father of the Declaration of Independence” and the United States’ 3rd president, Thomas Jefferson. For those who don’t know, Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. June 19, 1865 was the day that word finally spread to the Deep South of Galveston, Texas by way of Union soldiers that the enslaved were finally free—even though this was two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (Jan. 1, 1863). Author of one of the most well-known lines in all of United States history, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…” Jefferson himself was responsible for the enslavement of hundreds of people during his lifetime.

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Win Freedom or Die Trying

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.

“Freedom is never given, it is won.” – A. Philip Randolph

This was one of the first quotes I saw as I made my initial walk through the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, looking for a starting point. It caught my eye and teased my mind because I understood the sentiment, but I wasn’t convinced. The short yet encouraging and motivating message led me to question, “Okay, but how do you win?” How do you win freedom that you didn’t know was lost? How do you win when your opponent has a 400-year (and counting) head start? How do you win when your opponent makes all the rules, and makes new ones as you go to make sure you stay behind? How do you win when you didn’t even sign up to play in the first place? How do you win when even when someone on your team starts to make positive progress, their legs are cut from underneath of them? How did you win an arms race when it’s only “legal” for the other team to be armed? How did you win when a grossly disproportionate amount of your squad is incarcerated? You get my drift…

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(Not Pictured): The Preparation for Oral History

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.

Jacob Roberson completed his interview on June 18, 2018, after this post was written. Pictured here with his oral history interviewees and fellow interviewers. Left to right: Jacob Roberson, Marilyn Branch-Mitchell (’78), Ayele d’Almeida, Mysia Perry, and Greg Mitchell (’76**).

When I joined the Race & Racism Project, I was not quite sure what to expect. I knew there was going to be an oral history piece where we interview black alumni and it was this that excited me the most. I knew that in previous summers and classes, the bulk of the work within the project had been archival work to uncover and identify the racial history of the University of Richmond and the city itself. I also knew that that was not so much my cup of tea. Being out in the social word, talking, listening, eavesdropping, and interacting with people–these are my more refined skills. But of course an interview is only as good as its interviewer. Oral histories require in-depth knowledge of the interviewees, and you find much of this information by looking through the archives and historical records. However, what makes oral histories different is the fact that you’re hearing said person’s story from their perspective. Some might say autobiographies do the same, but there are at least three crucial differences: 1.) Not everyone likes to read, 2.) You can listen to an interview faster than you can read it, and most importantly in my opinion, 3.) You can better understand and grasp the essence of a story and history through word of mouth as opposed to words on a page. That all said, conducting interviews and producing oral histories can be more difficult than your “standard” archival work because of the fact that you must find a means of contacting those you wish to interview. And you can’t just reach out without any idea of who you’re talking to either. I quickly came to learn that the research done prior to the interview is just as important as setting up and conducting the interview itself.

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We Like What You Do, But Don’t Care Who UR

[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 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.

I have been able to call Richmond, Virginia home for all 21 years of my life and fortunately have had little to no trouble navigating about it; be it directionally, socially, athletically, racially, etc. Growing up as a multi-sport athlete, division one sports were something I always had on my mind for when I graduated high school and it was time for me to go to college. During my senior year, the University of Richmond, despite its high cost of attending, emerged as a viable option for me to choose to play division one football and be a student athlete. Though the campus is only a mere 15 minutes away from my home, I had only ever been to the campus for a few basketball games in the Robins Center when I was young, and to the intramural fields for a few recreation lacrosse games during high school. I never realized that there were only 3000 undergraduates, I did not know how the coordinate college system of Richmond College and Westhampton College functioned to make the “University of Richmond,” and I certainly did not know that the first black students were not admitted to the main campus until 1968.

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