Diving Into William and Mary’s Past: Research Update 1

Finding a Method 

In this past week, I began searching through the Colonial Echo yearbooks for examples of racism, racial insensitivity, or offensive traditions. I am extremely grateful that members of the special collections team at Swem library put in countless hours of work scanning yearbooks to make them available in the digital archives. After searching for a few keywords in the yearbooks and newspapers in an unorganized manner, I decided the best method would be to scan through each publication in a chronological order. As I search through each publication I’ve been keeping a track of locations of offensive images or language. This week, I began looking through yearbooks. Unfortunately,  I have found some examples of racist language and offensive African-American and Native-American caricatures. I even discovered a group of students who performed minstrel shows in blackface at William and Mary.

1918: Women Join the College

It has been interesting to see these offensive cases in juxtaposition to when women finally attended the college in 1918.  As students were forming minstrel groups or dressing in culturally insensitive Native-American costumes, women were founding their own organizations, establishing sports teams, and integrating into traditionally all-male clubs. William and Mary has advanced in inclusion, diversity, and cultural sensitivity over the years. It will be challenging however, to examine the different rates or non-linear fashion of this progress. I did not include images this week, but I may do so in the future. Next week I’ll be continuing to search through the digital archives, and I will soon visit special collections at Swem to examine greek life, athletic, or other records that may not be available online.

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