Lemon Project Symposium Presentation: The Black Student Experience at UR (1970-1992) by Jennifer Munnings

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 Jennifer Munnings’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 the exhibit she and her teammates created, “The Black Student Experience at UR (1970-1992).”

Jennifer Munnings is a rising junior at the University of Richmond double majoring in Sociology and Political Science with a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is from Nassau, Bahamas, and attended high school in New York. She was a research fellow during the Summer of 2017 for the University of Richmond Race & Racism Project where she created metadata for archival materials, wrote blog posts for the project, and collected oral histories and stories at the unveiling of the Maggie Lena Walker statue.

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The Black Student Experience at the University of Richmond Main Campus (1970-1992)

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.

Jennifer Munnings is a sophomore, intending to major in Sociology with a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Jennifer was new to the Race & Racism Project when she joined our Summer 2017 team. She created 74 individual digital items for our online collection, and contributed several blog posts available here. Her final project for the summer was an Omeka digital exhibit entitled “The Black Student Experience at the University of Richmond Main Campus (1970-1992).” A bit about the topic in her own words:

The University of Richmond’s black student integration experience is a tale of feet dragging by the University administration, threats of defunding from the federal government, and some resistance from the student body.  University of Richmond jumped through hurdles to avoid integration and maintain federal funding after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, complete with creating University College to cater to the “nontraditional” student. In 1968 the University of Richmond had its first full time black student enrolled in Richmond College, Barry Greene. Black students at UR had to fight to cultivate spaces for themselves where their opinions were acknowledged as legitimate, and their experiences were not discredited within the predominately white institution….Black students did not have spaces for themselves on campus where their feelings, opinions, and right to be students were not questioned. There were no black faculty or administrators on campus; the only black adult face students would have seen would have been the custodians or the gardeners. This exhibit will explore the acts of activism, intentional or not,  by black students through their experience at UR in their creation of clubs and organizations. Additionally, it will explore the tension that existed between black students and the administration in their attempt to be integrated into the campus.

Jennifer also joined Project Coordinator Dr. Nicole Maurantonio, Project Archivist Irina Rogova, Community Partner Free Egunfemi of Untold RVA, and fellow sophomore and A&S Summer Fellow Elizabeth Mejía-Ricart at the Imagining American Conference at UC Davis to present on the summer work on October 14, 2017.

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

This Week in the Archive: 1964-1965 President’s Report

By Jennifer Munnings

The 1964-1965 President’s Report highlights the first year of the Junior College’s establishment under University College. University College was formed in 1961, and the intention to develop the Junior College was expressed the same year by the Board of Trustees. Given that the Board of Trustees minutes are sealed indefinitely, the true intention behind the formation of University College and the Junior College is based on educated guesses, and published documents. The President’s Report report says on the formation of the Junior College: “This division was established to provide a two-year daytime liberal arts program for Richmond-area students who could not enroll in Richmond and Westhampton Colleges.”  Historical context suggests that part of the reason University College and subsequently the Junior College were instituted was as a means to continue to receive federal funding without integrating the main campus.

Although the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education was targeted at public institutions, private universities, like University of Richmond, that resisted integration were in danger of losing funding and being penalized. The University’s failure to desegregate resulted in the centering of the T. C. Williams School of Law by the Association of American Law Schools. On June 8th 1964 Walter Carpenter became the first black man to graduate from University College although University of Richmond had not announced that it would integrate until that same semester. There were also twelve black students whose names are unknown that were enrolled in night courses. So, what prompted the public announcement of its integration? And, who are the populations that Richmond and Westhampton College cannot serve?

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Research Challenges

By Jennifer Munnings

One thing is for certain when digging through history, you never know what you’re going to find. When I came to the University of Richmond, I was conscious of the fact that I was attending a formerly Baptist university in the capital of the confederacy. But it’s different to know something than to see actual evidence of it. I was vaguely aware that UR was segregated for a long time, that blackface was performed regularly, and that what are now known as racial slurs, were used as everyday language. However, finding articles in The Collegian of students performing minstrel shows in places I am familiar with, hit home in a way I hadn’t expected. It has sparked a conflictual relationship between myself and the University, on one hand, I’d like to celebrate how far it has come and be grateful for the opportunities it has provided me. On the other hand however, I can’t help but dwell on the fact that the progress that has been made, is not enough.

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A Visit to Maymont

By Jennifer Munnings

Maymont, what once was the home of James and Sallie Dooley, is best described as superfluous. As Catherine and I walked through the Japanese and Italian gardens we were struck by the immense beauty of Maymont. There were vibrant flowers all around, and as we explored, the quiet rush of a waterfall played in the background. The Gilded Age mansion was a grand display of wealth, walls were lined with gold, whole rooms were decorated by Tiffany, and there was an ivory vanity made from narwhal instead of elephant tusk.

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From Slavery to Jim Crow: Richmond Past & Present

By Jennifer Munnings

From slavery to Jim Crow, to separate but equal, laws in Richmond were constructed to marginalize and oppress black people while lifting up white people. The Confederacy lost the war against the continuation of slavery, but refused to let its racist ideals die so easily. The construction of institutions and laws created in the 20th century that targeted the black community had lasting effects and shaped Virginia and the city of Richmond.

Even with wins like the Supreme Court case Brown versus Board of Education in 1954 that declared that segregated public schools were a violation of the Constitution, the integration process was met with extreme resistance. Some schools closed down rather than allow black people to attend. In 1919, black public schools were overcrowded, underfunded, and the teachers were underpaid, which was to be expected when the government did not see a need to educate black people, believing that they were incapable of understanding the information regardless, and that they were destined to be laborers. Education being inaccessible to black people was an effective method in keeping black people in subordinate positions to white people.

Additionally, as a means of maintaining the racial hierarchy, Virginia schools refused to allow black people to be principals in black schools, creating problems of positive representation. White schools taught false histories, raising generations of students to believe that the people of Virginia were against slavery for the most part, when in fact they were headquarters for it. This notion was perpetuated by a book 10th graders had to read in the 1920s called “Slavery and Secession” by Beverly Bland Munford and social studies textbooks for fourth graders in 1965.  Virginia’s General Assembly controlled the rhetoric surrounding slavery, and generations of students were trained to believe a carefully constructed narrative surrounding its history that puts white southerners on a pedestal and completely ignores the humanity of black people.

Another method of control that Virginia used was residential segregation and in turn economic independence. The Federal Housing Administration used race as a basis of grading residential areas. As a result, all black communities received D ratings and were denied mortgages. Although this was legally reversed in 1977, Virginia continued this practice, and bank reviews show the disparity between mortgages given to white versus black people. As a result, black people were denied equal access to housing, this limited their ability to be independent of white people. Richmond gentrified black communities after 1964, destroying homes, and replacing them with public housing complexes and repaying the black people they displaced with a few hundred dollars and nothing else. Additionally, the construction of the I-95 turnpike which destroyed at least 1,000 homes in the historically black neighborhood Jackson Ward, highlights Richmond’s absolute disregard for black lives. The Richmond Times Dispatch said that the highway would improve the look of the city, meaning that the black people living in Jackson Ward were tainting it, and bringing down the attractiveness of the city.

With limited economic opportunities, and lack of support from the government, it is obvious that black people were pushed out of Richmond at every opportunity. The General Assembly sent free black people to Liberia in the 19th century, and in the 20th century, instead of providing black people with graduate schools, they created out-of-state scholarships. An independent, educated, and economically stable black person was something to be feared because they challenged the hierarchy and the legitimacy of white supremacy. Virginia’s government did all it could to challenge black people in achieving that status.

Richmond suffered greatly from 1955 to the 1970s. In Richmond’s Unhealed History Benjamin Campbell writes, “[Richmond’s] infrastructure was decaying, its bonding capacity was exhausted, and there was no new land for development or expansion.” In an attempt to rectify this, the city continued to implement laws that encouraged segregation and discrimination. This time however, the city was met with resistance, but white supremacist powers were stronger. Urban renewal projects are great examples of racism in Richmond as they highlight the power structures. The I-95 highway was placed strategically to involve white people more with the community and to destroy the historically black neighborhood. Richmond’s tumultuous history with racism is evident in its social structure, architecture, and governing bodies.

Jennifer Munnings is a rising sophomore, intending to major in Sociology with a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Jennifer is new to the Race and Racism Project, joining in Summer 2017 as a summer fellow. 

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