If you were rating the racial climate at the University of Virginia on a scale of 1-10, what score would you give the University? Does the idea of a “post-racial society” hold true when we examine the complex nature of social and cultural life at UVA? How and to what degree have the individual and collective experiences of African American undergraduates transformed since the late 1960s? Is there still a need for the Black Student Alliance, the Office of African American Affairs, and the Office of Diversity and Equity? Is Black Studies still an intellectual necessity in the 21st century academy? Have these entities been successful in bringing about meaningful change in the experiences of underrepresented minorities at UVA? And if not, how can future efforts to make the University a more equitable and democratic institution benefit from a critical engagement with past struggles for social justice and racial equality?
To facilitate critical thinking and exchange on these and other important questions, this course grounds contemporary debates on the state of race relations at UVA within the larger, historical context of the “black Wahoo” experience. In addition to exploring contemporary issues affecting academic, cultural, and social life on grounds, our classroom and online activities draw attention to an important yet insufficiently explored chapter in the history of “Jefferson’s University” by examining the varied ways in which various student-led movements have transformed the intellectual culture and social fabric of everyday life at the University. How those transformations continue to shape our experiences on grounds will be a topic of frequent discussion. Over the course of the semester students will explore a wide range of topics, including but not restricted to: black-white student relations, affirmative action, African American Greek life, the black student athlete, the racial politics of major selection, the living wage as both a class and race issue, the black arts and hip-hop scene on grounds, and ethnic coalitions and conflict between African American, African, and American African students.