Racism in UR Fraternities

Over the course of summer 2018, three A&S Summer Research Fellows conducted research into the University Archives at the Virginia Baptist Historical Society to expand the archival holdings of the Race & Racism Project. At the end of the summer fellowship, each student was tasked with doing a deep-dive research on one topic in order to create a digital exhibit or podcast on the subject.

After going through decades of University of Richmond yearbooks, rising senior Kristi Mukk focused her digital exhibit on acts of racism displayed by university fraternities in the years before, during, and after integration. In her own words:

Kappa Alpha 1971

In both the past and the present, University of Richmond social life has been dominated by Greek life. This exhibit aims to present evidence of racism in fraternities from 1947-1985 that created an exclusionary atmosphere for students of color, particularly black students. Whether it is Confederate flags displayed in Greek lodges, fraternity members in blackface, or culturally appropriative costumes and party themes, fraternities clearly exhibited racist behavior even as the University began to integrate and admit black students to the main campus in 1968. These photos were published in the University of Richmond yearbooks, which normalizes these racist actions and shows how representative they were of the University of Richmond experience. These artifacts bring into question the comfort of public racism at the University as these racist items were published in yearbooks well past the period of integration and into the 1980s.

Click here to check out her exhibit entitled “Racism in UR Fraternities” on memory.richmond.edu

This Week in the Archive: UR Alumni Outrage over Lecturer Dick Gregory

by Kristi Mukk

Kristi Mukk is a rising senior from Mililani, Hawaii. She is majoring in Rhetoric and Communications and minoring in English. She is a dancer and communications director for Ngoma African Dance Company. This is her first time working for the Race & Racism Project as a Summer Fellow, and she is excited to continue her work in the course Digital Memory & the Archive in Fall 2018.

The following blog post contains some contentious language. Please consider the intent of its use as you read on.

Archival work sometimes requires you to act like a detective by following a series of artifacts and connecting all the dots in order to uncover a story. My first archival detective journey started with a full-page photo of a black man I found in The Web 1971 yearbook. During this time, it was quite rare to find minorities represented in the yearbooks, let alone have a dedicated full-page photograph. The speaker’s name was not mentioned in the caption of the photo, so I emailed our Project Archivist, Irina Rogova, to see if she could identify the man. She informed me that he was Dick Gregory, a black comedian, author, actor, activist, and civil rights leader who came to speak on campus in December 1970 as part of a lecture series. This sparked my interest, so I decided to look through the Collegian newspaper archives to find more background and context.

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James Madison’s Montpelier: Connecting the Past to the Present

by Kristi Mukk

Kristi Mukk is a rising senior from Mililani, Hawaii. She is majoring in Rhetoric and Communications and minoring in English. She is a dancer and communications director for Ngoma African Dance Company. This is her first time working for the Race & Racism Project as a Summer Fellow, and she is excited to continue her work in the course Digital Memory & the Archive in Fall 2018.

The Mere Distinction of Colour exhibit at James Madison’s Montpelier opened to the public on June 5, 2017 and is located in the cellars under the mansion. The exhibit invites visitors to confront the great American paradox of the reality of slavery in a country that values liberty and freedom. Enslaved people played a large role in the lives of James and Dolley Madison. James Madison grew up around enslaved people working on the Montpelier plantation, and they were part of his birthright when his father passed away. Dolley Madison utilized the skills of the enslaved people to uphold her social status. James Madison served as president of the American Colonization Society, a group which sought to send free blacks to Africa as an alternative to emancipation in the United States. At the time of James Madison’s death, there were about 120 enslaved people at Montpelier. After his death, the enslaved people were not freed, but sold by Dolley Madison due to her financial situation.

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Agecroft Hall: What We Value Is What We Preserve

by Kristi Mukk

Kristi Mukk is a rising senior from Mililani, Hawaii. She is majoring in Rhetoric and Communications and minoring in English. She is a dancer and communications director for Ngoma African Dance Company. This is her first time working for the Race & Racism Project as a Summer Fellow, and she is excited to continue her work in the course Digital Memory & the Archive in Fall 2018.

I had never heard of Agecroft Hall before visiting even though it is just a short 10 minute drive from the University of Richmond. Agecroft Hall is an estate that includes a Tudor manor house and gardens overlooking the James River. The manor house was originally located in Manchester, England and was built in the late fifteenth century, but it fell into disrepair in the 20th century. It was bought at auction by entrepreneur Thomas C. Williams, Jr. Williams, who made his fortune in tobacco, banking, and real estate development. He decided to dismantle the manor house and ship it across the Atlantic to be reconstructed in the Windsor Farms neighborhood of Richmond and was completed in 1928. After Williams’ death in the following year after the completion of reconstruction, Agecroft Hall became a house museum as he had instructed in his will. Furthermore, as Williams was a University of Richmond trustee, the Williams’ family donated $25,000 to the University of Richmond in 1890 after his death, and the law school was later named the T.C. William School of Law.

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Reading Against the Grain: Themes of Participation, Self-Determination, and Silence

by Kristi Mukk

Kristi Mukk is a rising senior from Mililani, Hawaii. She is majoring in Rhetoric and Communications and minoring in English. She is a dancer and communications director for Ngoma African Dance Company. This is her first time working for the Race & Racism Project as a Summer Fellow, and she is excited to continue her work in the course Digital Memory & the Archive in Fall 2018.

For my first week of research, I decided to go through The Web yearbooks from the 1960s and early 1970s to get a better idea of what the University was like before, during, and after integration and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One of the things that immediately stood out to me were the themes of the yearbooks. The very first yearbook I looked at was from 1960 and it featured Confederate Spidey, the unofficial mascot from around 1950 to 1970 of a spider dressed in a Confederate uniform and holding a Confederate flag, on both the cover of the yearbook and on nearly every single page. The noise of whiteness, racism, and Lost Cause ideology can overwhelm the voices of others. Whether it is the playing of the Confederate song “Dixie” at University events, the large number of Confederate flags documented in yearbook photographs at Greek lodges, sporting events, and Rat Week, or the yearbook photos containing racist imagery such as nooses and blackface, black students faced several obstacles in areas of student life at the University of Richmond. The Confederate flags and the song “Dixie” were a symbol of the Old South, celebration, and pride for white students, but for black students it was a symbol of the horrors of enslavement and racism.

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The Distinction Between Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Richmond

[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 Kristi Mukk

Kristi Mukk is a rising senior from Mililani, Hawaii. She is majoring in Rhetoric and Communications and minoring in English. She is a dancer and communications director for Ngoma African Dance Company. This is her first time working for the Race & Racism Project as a Summer Fellow, and she is excited to continue her work in the course Digital Memory & the Archive in Fall 2018.

When I first toured the campus before applying, I observed that the University of Richmond struggled with issues of diversity and inclusivity, and I found myself questioning how I would fit in. In being awed by the beautiful campus, it can be easy to overlook how predominantly white and affluent the student body is. I planned on declaring a business major, so when I came to visit campus, I explored the Robins School of Business and sat in on an economics class. I was immediately struck by the lack of students of color and faculty of color in comparison to other departments. During my two semesters as a Pre-Business freshman, I felt that the business school had an alienating atmosphere for students of color—the majority of students in my classes were a part of Greek life, had an affluent socioeconomic background, and already had connections in the business world. This is part of the reason that I decided to switch to liberal arts disciplines like English and Rhetoric and Communications where there are more diverse students and faculty. Not only is there more numerical diversity in these departments, but students and faculty make an effort to have conversations about race, equity, inclusivity, and justice. Furthermore, the diversity of the curriculum reflects an interest in a more inclusive history and beliefs and cultures outside of the Western world.

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