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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The Importance of Marginalized Narratives

by Mysia Perry

Mysia Perry is a rising sophomore from Richmond, VA with an intended major in Leadership Studies and minor in Sociology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  She is a part of the WILL* program, Peer Advisors and Mentors, Planned Parenthood Generation Action, and she is both an Oldham and Oliver Hill Scholar. This is her first summer working on the Race & Racism Project on Team Oral History, and she is very excited to begin working for more equitable environment here at the University of Richmond.

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

Left to right: Mysia Perry, Ayele d’Almeida, and S. Joanne Morris.

When I began my work on the Race & Racism Project, I expected completely overt and outright instances of prejudice and discrimination. I expected there to be black face and nooses and swastikas and instances upon instances when people called those before me a nigger. I didn’t think about how the racist views I witness must derive from the racist views and discriminatory experiences of the past marginalized groups. I wish I’d paid more attention to the details, where racism lies in the more subtle, socially acceptable forms. While I conducted and assisted with the interviews, I wish I had listened more to how the experiences that aren’t completely outright and direct affected the alumni. I found that as I worked more and more on the interviews, it was easier to pull out those things. In the first interviews, there were things I wish I had dug deeper into. I find that because I was so caught up on the things that did not happen, I didn’t listen closely enough to the things that did. I didn’t focus on the connections between the stories.

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A Final Reflection

by Ayele d’Almeida

Ayele d’Almeida is a Political Science and Leadership double-major from Bloomington, Minnesota. Her work at Common Ground, the University of Richmond’s social justice initiative informed her decision to pursue the Race & Racism Project as a summer fellow. She hopes that through her fellowship and continued connection with the project, she will learn more about the University of Richmond. Ayele believes that the Race & Racism Project will also help later in life – as the project forces her to question institutions she may benefits from. She hoped to focus her research on black faculty and the presence of black students in white-dominated clubs and spaces.

Phi Beta Sigma, 1983, featuring oral history interviewee Stan Jones.

My second blog post this summer focused largely on questions of social spaces. I wanted to look at whether or not the absence of adequate and inclusive spaces forced black students to seek options outside of the University of Richmond campus. From what I have gathered from my oral history interviews with black alums, many black students went home to spend time with their families on the weekends.  Social events consisted of small gatherings in the basement of Thomas Hall, a residence hall on campus. When Phi Beta Sigma, the University’s first black fraternity came to campus, social events were hosted by the fraternity in conjunction with the Student Organization for Black Awareness (SOBA).

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Hearing Sentiments From Black Alumni that Still Resonate

by Rena Xiao

Rena Xiao is a rising junior from New York City who has spent the majority of her life living abroad in Beijing, China. She is a Double Major in Geography and Global Studies with a Concentration in World Politics and Diplomacy, and a minor in WGSS.

Rena Xiao and Eden Wolfer during their phone interview with Dr. Jesse Moore.

Uncovering the narratives of black alumni who attended the University of Richmond, a predominately white school, in the mid to late 20th century, I expected to hear brazen, explicit incidents of racism and discrimination. The University is geographically located in a state that struggles to move past its history. The Richmond City landscape is dotted with tributes to figures such as Robert E.Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Digging through the archives I did find many instances of racist language and Confederate imagery that were despicable but not shocking. However, in the process of collecting oral histories, many black alumni did not share experiences of explicit or violent acts borne out of hatred. Rather a common theme within many of the oral histories were stories of social marginalisation. Black students on campus during the 1970s and 80s felt ignored by the dominant, white population and were isolated from regular social life. These small daily acts of exclusion left a deep impact on these students and shaped their past and current relationship with the University of Richmond.

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I’m a Nervous Wreck but I’m Proud of Myself

by Eden Wolfer

Eden Wolfer is a rising junior from Wilmington, Delaware. She is majoring in sociology and minoring in education. This is her first summer working for the Race & Racism Project and she is excited to learn from this experience.

The first interview that I ran the audio technology for was Team Oral History’s practice interview with Ms. Robin Mundle and Ms. Iria Jones. I forgot to hit record for over half of the interview. I was assured that it was okay, that’s why we have practice runs, that it was my first time. It’s been over a month and I’m still embarrassed.

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