Throughout the month of February, several University of Richmond offices and organizations are coming together to craft a walk through black history in America.
The month begins with an actual walk, following the footsteps of enslaved Africans along the Richmond Slave Trail. The walking trail chronicles their journey from Africa to Virginia until 1775, and away from Virginia to other locations. It’s not only a chance to better understand the history of past generations, but to also encourage students to explore the surrounding city.
Following the guided tour, University President Edward Ayers will speak to the campus community about the importance of the Emancipation Proclamation, just weeks after the 150th anniversary of its 1865 issuance.
“We’re lucky to have a president who’s a historian and able to speak on the Emancipation Proclamation, especially in this historic year,” says Tyler Barbarin, ’14, president of the African Student Alliance and a member of the planning committee for Black History Month.
The commemoration then shifts focus to more recent history, with a film series on the race and the civil rights movement, in partnership with the University’s Osher Institute and the Oliver Hill Scholars program.
Janelle Grant, ’13, president of the Black Student Alliance and member of the planning committee, explains that the second film, Before the Memories Fade, features the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. “People who were a part of the movement who are still alive today tell stories about what they did and how they contributed, stories that we haven’t heard before,” she says. “We’re having the director come and talk about that and how important it is to keep the black history memory alive.”
The month concludes by turning the spotlight on the stories of black history in the making. The final event highlights the talents and aspirations of Richmond students and contributors from the community. It’s also a chance for the newest generation to make a statement about just what it means to be black in America.
“We wanted to showcase what we’re doing and how we are continuing the legacy and making our own history,” Grant says. “Black is starting to be more than just being African or being born in America with dark skin. It’s being Jamaican. It’s being Bahamian. It’s being South African. I feel like our generation is now breaking those categories and saying that we’re more than just one thing.”
Barbarin agrees. “History doesn’t necessarily just mean 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 100 years ago. It also means thinking about what we do today that will leave an imprint for the next generation.”