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Institutional History Courses

Building on the work of students, faculty, and staff to better understand UR's institutional history and at the recommendation of the Presidential Commission on University History and Identity, the Provost's Office piloted a faculty cohort on institutional history. Their courses have expanded our knowledge of institutional history and its legacies, deepened student learning, and contributed to our goals of belonging and capability. Applications for the 2021-22 cohort will be available soon.

 

FYS 100: Black Female Advocacy Through the Press

Mariela Méndez
Spring 2021

This course traces the social reform work of three black women in Virginia from the post-Reconstruction period into the early twentieth century and the role the press played in providing a forum for the articulation of their agendas and the dissemination of their ideas. Many African American women chose careers in teaching and social work after the Civil War and embarked upon a leadership that significantly impacted early care and education, health and labor reforms, correctional educational work, and even later voting campaigns for the African-American population. Inspired by Brittney Cooper’s book Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women (2017), this course sets out to show how Janie Porter Barrett (1865-1948), Rosa Dixon Bowser (1855-1931), and Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934) were not just institution builders, but, most importantly, they were public thinkers on race questions whose thought has not earned the same credit and prestige as that of black male thinkers. In highlighting the role Barrett, Bowser, and Walker played in shaping black intellectual thought through their advocacy on various periodicals, this first year seminar aims to underscore both their role as public thinkers and producers of knowledge and the role of the press in constructing black intellectual history. The overarching goal of this First Year Seminar is to examine how these three women thinkers transformed both intellectual and physical spaces in the service of their social reform projects, and part of the coursework will involve students examining both the connections of these women with key figures in UR’s history and the comparable work performed by female student/activists through various university publications.

FYS 100: Making Meaningful Spaces

Dorothy Holland
Fall 2020

In Belonging: A Culture of Place, bell hooks writes, “Spaces can be real and imagined. Spaces can tell stories and unfold histories.” This course will explore the stories and untold histories of the ground upon which we stand. The course begins with an examination of the campus itself: interrogating how the layout, the design and configuration of space influences our thinking, our behaviors and our feelings. In what ways does it convey a sense of welcome or exclusion? What stories does it tell? What stories are told about it? Students will then delve into an exploration, through literature and archival media, of the larger historical ground of colonial expansion, the transatlantic slave trade, slavery protections embedded in our foundational documents and laws, the institution of slavery (economic impact and lived experiences), Reconstruction gains, Jim Crow losses and terror, the Great Migration, Redlining, Urban Development, and the growth of the suburbs. With this historical framework in mind, students will return to an examination of the history of the campus. We will draw on primary documents, images and newspaper archives, as well as the burial ground report, “Knowledge of This Cannot be Hidden.” Images and accounts of the events during the 1918 pandemic may also prove particularly meaningful at this time. One goal is to be able to make a connection between our history and our current social moment. To better understand our past, in order to better understand our present, as well as our future possibilities.

CLSC 220: Introduction to Archaeology

Elizabeth Baughan
Fall 2020

How can we read the past? What can we learn about people and societies, past and present, from their material remains? This course provides an introduction to archaeological method and theory, with special focus on the archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean basin, the Richmond area, and our own campus. We will study artifacts excavated near Maryland Hall that are probably associated with an early 20th-century amusement park and consider how the park contributed to the erasure of the memory of slavery on this land. Final projects will explore how further archaeological research could shed new light on the lives of the people who were enslaved here and on neighboring African American communities of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

FYS 100: Capitalism and Its Discontents

Eric Yellin
Spring 2020

This course will consider how philosophers, novelists, social reformers, economists, and ordinary people have understood, promoted, opposed, and sought to reform capitalism since the eighteenth century. Focused on the history of the United States, the course will encourage students to think about the social and political implications of capitalist and anti-capitalist ideologies.

Readings will analyze inequality, work, gender roles, and class and racial hierarchies in the past and today, and part of the coursework will involve students examining the history of the UR campus’s development and location in the context of these issues. Authors include Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Franklin Roosevelt, Milton Friedman, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Thomas Piketty.

DANC 319/AMST 381/WGSS: Collaborative Arts Lab: Dance, Humanities, and Technology

Alicia Diaz and Patricia Herrera
Spring 2020

This co-taught course explores how to use dance and the arts as a vehicle for, what historical strategist Free Egunfemi calls, Commemorative Justice. Using the University of Richmond as a site of inquiry, we will reckon with the history of our own campus from a plantation before the Civil War to a black-owned land and home of a mutual aid society.

Gravesites are constant reminders of people’s living stories. When we deny the existence of a cemetery, we deny the existence of people. We will thus pay particular attention to three burial grounds—the burial ground for enslaved people located behind the administrative offices of UR, the Sons and Daughters of Ham Cemetery on the outskirts of campus and the East End Cemetery in the City of Richmond. We will work on two site-specific commemorative projects that will engage with the history of these burial grounds and honor the lives of black people who are buried beneath the land we walk on. It is in the process of embodying this history that we can collectively grapple with a racial past that still haunts us today.

Inspired by the goals of the Institutional History Cohort to engage students in the history of the land we occupy and its legacy as well as the East End Cemetery Collaboratory to engage students in the reclamation and preservations of East End Cemetery, a historic African American burial ground, students worked with faculty to collaboratively create a commemorative act honoring the lives of indigenous and black enslaved people who stewarded this land.

A short film, “Knowledge of This Cannot be Hidden”: Westham Burying Ground Commemorative Act at the University of Richmond, was created by students in the class as well as two students from “Gender, Race, and Performance Across the Americas” and guest artist Kevin LaMarr Jones ('94).

LAIS 497/THTR 312/AMST 391 & WGSS: Gender, Race, and Performance Across the Americas

Patricia Herrera & Mariela Méndez
Spring 2020

The body serves as a site of negotiation, discipline, and a means of expression and meaning. This co-taught class examines how bodies throughout the Americas articulate race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and gender. Drawing from critical race studies, feminist and queer theory, and performance studies, we will unpack how race, gender, and sexuality are constructed and maintained through performance—both on-stage and off.  We will pay special attention to the politics of the body locally and globally.

From commemorative performances to interventionist performances, we will wrestle with issues that invite us to think in new ways about gender, race, and the construction of identities across the Americas. This course is designed for students who have some communicative ability in Spanish. Our readings and discussions will be conducted in English, Spanish, and Spanglish. A cohort of 8-10 students from the class will travel to Cuba to the biennial Havana Theater Festival, Mayo Teatral, with the support of the EnCompass program. Enrollment in the course pending conversation with professors. If you are interested in the class or have any questions, contact Professor Patricia Herrera at pherrera@richmond and Professor Mariela Méndez at mmendezd@richmond.edu.

RHCS 412: Streets, Spaces, and Structures

Nicole Maurantonio
Spring 2020

In recent years, college campuses across the United States have been compelled to confront the question, “What’s in a name?” As the Chronicle of Higher Education summarized, “And what is a university’s responsibility when the name on a statue, building, or program on campus is a painful reminder of hard to a specific racial group?” Joining a national conversation surrounding the meaning of the names of streets, spaces, and structures, the University of Richmond considers a response to calls to rename Ryland and Freeman Halls on campus.

 Over the course of the semester, students will engage the debates surrounding building renamings by focusing on a particular case study on the University of Richmond campus: Freeman Hall. Named after Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Robert E. Lee, Douglas Southall Freeman was a journalist and editor of the Richmond News Leader. A man known to have saluted the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue each day as he passed en route to his office, Freeman is a mythical figure whose name not only commemorates a dorm on UR’s campus but local schools across the region.  

Engaging with a range of primary source documents and contributing to the growing inquiry into Freeman’s life, students will analyze Freeman’s editorials as well as writings about Freeman to better understand and contextualize a man who was both actively constructing his own myth as well as being defined by popular media. In this way, the course aims to explore the many Douglas Southall Freemans in public circulation, reading them within the context of the Lost Cause in popular and public culture.

HIST 199: Slavery and Freedom in Early America

Samantha Seeley
Fall 2019

This course will explore the history of slavery and freedom in Early America, from the beginnings of the Atlantic slave trade to the eve of the Civil War. We will examine the varied kinds of evidence that historians have used to tell this history—from ships logs and plantation records to slave narratives and material culture. Questions about evidence are particularly important in our class because the archive of slavery is filled with silences. Libraries, universities, and historical societies are places of power and privilege. Many of them long neglected the story of slavery. To that end, we will spend part of this course exploring the University of Richmond’s relationship to slavery and enslaved people. Throughout the course, we will pair primary and secondary sources to ask how historians locate, interpret, and write about slavery’s archive.  

LDST 101: Leadership and the Humanities

Lauranett L. Lee
Fall 2019

This introductory course in leadership studies will engage students in the process of historical inquiry through the lens of university history. Students will learn to collaborate, communicate and cooperate by working in small groups as they build consensus. Throughout the semester they will research, write, debate and present their findings about the university’s history as well as their own process of discovery. Simultaneously, students will be introduced to the founders, concepts and theories in the field of leadership studies.

Questions?

For more information about the Institutional History Faculty Cohort, please contact Amy Howard, Senior Administrative Officer for Equity and Community.