This Week in the Archive: In Response to Collegian Article “History is Not Restricted by Race or Gender”

by Meghna Melkote

Meghna Melkote is a rising sophomore from Scranton, Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and Philosophy and minoring in Music. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project as a member of Team Archive. She is involved with the Mock Trial and Debate teams, performs in chamber music ensembles, is a member of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, and is a content curator for public history platform bunkhistory.org

Throughout my research, I’ve found a lot of Collegian articles over whether or not to require Western Civilizations as a course. This article, written by staff editorialist Scott Shepard, is a response to a piece written by student Jennifer Rabold. Shepard’s main argument is that “history is not restricted by race or gender,” and that Western Civilization is everyone’s history. I’ve been doing research on the history of an integrated curriculum, and I’ve generally stayed away from inserting a strong opinion into what I find. However, it was this article that allowed me to form an argument as to why we need to engage different, non-Western perspectives in our academics. Rather than simply discuss what he says, I would like to take some time to directly refute Shepard’s argument in a manner relevant to my research project.

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Miles To Go

by Meghna Melkote

Meghna Melkote is a rising sophomore from Scranton, Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and Philosophy and minoring in Music. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project as a member of Team Archive. She is involved with the Mock Trial and Debate teams, performs in chamber music ensembles, is a member of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, and is a content curator for public history platform bunkhistory.org

Photo by Nicole Maurantonio

On June 21st, 2019, the New York Times published an essay by reporter Kurt Streeter about the re-naming of a major road in Richmond, Virginia. Amidst the hum of debate surrounding how to handle existing Confederate monuments nationwide, the city council of the former capital of the Confederacy voted to rename a major street formerly known as “Boulevard” to “Arthur Ashe Boulevard”. Arthur Ashe was a record-breaking tennis player, civil rights supporter, and writer whose nephew led the charge to commemorate his uncle. While this change was brought about by activists and a strong city council in Richmond (there was an 8-1 vote in favor of it), the publication of this story in the New York Times shows that this brand of cities reckoning with their history is not unique to Richmond. I had the opportunity to attend the official dedication of the boulevard on June 22nd, 2019. The event was held at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, and coincided with the opening of their new exhibit “Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality”.

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The Story Beneath Our Feet

by Meghna Melkote

Meghna Melkote is a rising sophomore from Scranton, Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and Philosophy and minoring in Music. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project as a member of Team Archive. She is involved with the Mock Trial and Debate teams, performs in chamber music ensembles, is a member of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, and is a content curator for public history platform bunkhistory.org

I visited Lumpkin’s Jail (also known as the Devil’s Half Acre) and the African Burial Ground in Richmond–Lumpkin’s Jail was the largest slave-holding facility in Richmond during the mid 19th century. The jail historically has been home to the typical cruel and unusual treatment of enslaved people by Robert Lumpkin, who purchased the property and created a two story brick slave jail that held enslaved people until they were sold. After emancipation, a historically black seminary was founded and later on, a parking lot covered the area. We also visited the African Burial Ground, or, as it was originally titled in a city map, the “Burial Ground for Negroes.” As we learned from the historical markers on the site, it was a poor quality burial ground, with the danger of heavy rains washing the remnants and land into the James River, and also was where convicts were hung. After a new site opened, the grave site was abandoned and the construction of what would later become I-95 destroyed the land. In the 1990s, activists like Defenders for Freedom, Justice, & Equality and the Slave Trail Commission began working on commemorating and memorializing the site. It currently rests as a large field with information signs explaining the history, surrounded by memorials – it is not clear who left the current ones, but it is known that memorials left by survivors had disintegrated with time. Read more

Intro To: The Beginning of Research into the University’s Curriculum

by Meghna Melkote

Meghna Melkote is a rising sophomore from Scranton, Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and Philosophy and minoring in Music. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project as a member of Team Archive. She is involved with the Mock Trial and Debate teams, performs in chamber music ensembles, is a member of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, and is a content curator for public history platform bunkhistory.org

This week was spent determining our research topics and looking at how to approach our research questions. These questions centered around the experiences of marginalized students, and support use of the archive as a source of inquiry. I decided to examine the curriculum at the University of Richmond. There are several areas to look at here – I intend to focus on the now defunct Core curriculum/current First Year Seminar classes/required reading, as well as course offerings, course content, and faculty specialties. I intend to examine whether or not the curriculum is Western focused and Eurocentric, and, if it is, to what extent. I will also look at the extent of minority representation in required reading and examine whether or not faculty members have specialties in their disciplines to equip them to teach non-Western centric content.

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The Emphasis on the Coordinate College System

by Meghna Melkote

Meghna Melkote is a rising sophomore from Scranton, Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and Philosophy and minoring in Music. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project as a member of Team Archive. She is involved with the Mock Trial and Debate teams, performs in chamber music ensembles, is a member of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, and is a content curator for public history platform bunkhistory.org

One of the first things a student at the University of Richmond hears during orientation week is in which college they are placed. Students are selected into either Richmond College (historically a men’s college) and Westhampton College (historically a women’s college but, in the modern age, moving away from that label and moving towards “the support of underrepresented genders”, as it explains on its website. This includes women, transgender individuals, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming individuals). The University of Richmond operates under a coordinate college system, which historically has played a significant role both in academics, residence life, and social life. While both Westhampton College and Richmond College have long, separate (although intertwined) histories, the legacy of the gender-separated campus stays in place even in recent years. It wasn’t until 2002, in fact, that students crossed the lake that used to separate men and women and were no longer separated by gender. In Fall 2017, freshman dorms became co-ed. And currently, Richmond College and Westhampton College operate different student governments, honor councils, and student conduct councils with different rules and procedures. Additionally, a large number of orientation events are still separated by college, with Richmond College and Westhampton College attending lectures at different times, and participating in college-specific activities. As a first-year student especially during the first week of college, I felt the legacy and the weight of the coordinate college system significantly impacted my college experience (I’m hard-pressed to discern whether for better or worse, but the gender-segregated orientation definitely impacted how I interact with first-year men).

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