A Very Important Letter to the Editor

This week on Expanding the Ivory Tower, we reflect on a letter to the editor of The Collegian published in 1976. The author of the letter, Wanda Starke, and then-president of the Student Organization for Black Awareness (SOBA) wrote in to critique white members of the university community for failing to participate in SOBA’s celebration of Black History Week. This episode considers what happens when people from marginalized groups get to speak to their own experiences.

Run, Jump, and Shoot

Inspired by a presentation given during Black History Month by a group of black student-athletes entitled “Reflections of Our Past”, I return to an earlier episode about the importance of black student-athletes to the history of predominately white institutions and more specifically to the history of the University of Richmond. “Reflections of Our Past” not only presented an expansive history of black athletes in the United States but also posited the role of black athletes (both student and otherwise) in today’s political climate as that of influencers and change agents.

Sitting in the audience I could not help but think back to this episode and my musings about black student-athletes and their significance to the integration of predominately white universities in the 1960s and 1970s. I described black student-athletes as the “vanguards of black student life on campus” because they often cleared the way for further integration at many institutions. As you listen you may be struck by the absence of black women student-athletes in the narrative, which is an unintended consequence of their exclusion from the historical record. With a more intentional eye I plan to uncover their stories and consider their contributions to the university community and legacy.