Wrapping Up The Echo: Week 3 Update

This week marked the wrap up of my initial examination of The Colonial Echo. I’ve looked through hundreds of student pictures and articles that chronicle the years at William and Mary. As I’ve moved through the years since 1899, I’ve seen a definite shift in the inclusiveness and diversity of the culture at William and Mary. Soon after African American students were admitted into the undergraduate class, black students started forming groups like the Black Student Organization and fraternities and sororities like Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, and Zeta Phi Beta. Aside from these spaces created on campus for specific ethnic, racial, or cultural identities, previously all white organizations eventually became integrated as well.

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Visiting Special Collections: Week 2 Update

This week was filled with more paging through yearbooks. At the end of the week I went to Williamsburg to visit special collections in Swem library. I spent a few hours looking through fraternity and sorority records and photos. I also examined some of records from the William and Mary theatre program to look for evidence of the William and Mary minstrel club. While in Swem, I looked through the Colonial Echo yearbooks from 1996 through 2008 which are not available online. In these yearbooks, I found examples of the many diverse student organizations and cultural celebrations that are now prevalent at W&M.

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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.

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An Examination of the Evolution of Student Culture at William and Mary

   In recent months, various scandals have ignited conversation over the  racially insensitive histories of Virginia colleges. Inevitably, William and Mary has been drawn into this conversation as media outlets search for examples of poor conduct in the history of the College. This summer, my research will focus on the history of student culture at William and Mary as publicly presented in student publications such as student newspapers and the yearbook. By examining  these student-run and edited publications, I hope to find clear and uncensored opinions and practices of students at the College. I hope to not only to reconcile with the more controversial moments in the history of the College, but to also illustrate the evolution of student culture as the college has grown in age and diversity.