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A Fuller Telling: Next Steps

Our inclusive history work reinforces our commitment to academic excellence and our shared values of student growth, inclusivity and equity, ethical engagement, and the pursuit of knowledge. These shared values call us to negotiate the tensions in our past as foundational work to becoming a thriving intercultural community and to prepare our students to be agile critical thinkers able to navigate difficult conversations and understand the world as it has been to shape a better future.

In harmony with the campus’s Collegiate Gothic style, we will use our landscape to create meaningful encounters with our past, embedding reminders — such as historical displays, signage, and spaces for remembrance and reflection — that foster greater understanding of our complex history.

Ryland Hall

In the newly renovated Ryland Hall, we will work to vividly tell the story of the founding of Richmond College and the role of Robert Ryland, including his role as an enslaver and the complexities of his role at First African Baptist Church. We will also permanently recognize the people Ryland enslaved, including those who were forced to labor on Richmond College’s campus. In addition, the terrace of the new Humanities Commons, which will provide a place for outdoor reflection and conversation, will be named for an enslaved person or persons whose names and stories were recovered through our inclusive history research. A working group led by distinguished faculty and historians, and informed by the community, will make a recommendation to the President for the terrace naming by the end of May 2021.

Mitchell-Freeman Hall

Freeman Hall will be renamed as “Mitchell-Freeman Hall” to honor the life and work of John Mitchell, Jr. (1863–1929), a former enslaved person who became the editor of the African American newspaper the Richmond Planet — and some of whose descendants are members of the University of Richmond community. We will recount the history of both Freeman and Mitchell at Mitchell-Freeman Hall, documenting Freeman’s achievements and dedication to the University, while also openly recognizing his racist beliefs and advocacy for segregation and eugenics. We will also tell of Mitchell’s intellectual achievements and how he embodied the kind of professional achievement that Freeman believed impossible for Black people. This juxtaposition provides a more accurate representation of Freeman and the realities of his time, as well as evidence that there were always critical voices and obvious facts that challenged and contradicted Freeman’s positions.