WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - In the months since Virginia’s governor and attorney general apologized for wearing blackface, similarly racist photos have continued to come to light – especially in the pages of old college yearbooks.
Leadership at schools across the country have condemned the images, but now a school in Virginia is taking things a step forward.
Hollins University in Roanoke has made the decision to temporarily remove some yearbooks that include racist images from their digital archives “in an effort to limit the damage and pain those depictions might cause.”
The school’s president, Pareena G. Lawrence, said in a letter sent to students that the yearbooks would be put back online in the coming weeks, along with information about the history of blackface and why it’s racist.
Lawrence also said that hard copies of the yearbooks found on the school’s campus will include a statement “acknowledging these racist portrayals of African Americans.”
The plan is getting mixed reviews.
“If it’s a part of history, it’s a part of history,” Paula Pettigrew said. “So let’s apologize for that history and move on."
Eric Jones felt differently, saying, “if it’s blackface, and if it’s meant to be racist, then it should be taken down.”
Michael Fauntroy, an associate professor of political science at Howard University, said his first reaction to hearing about Hollins University’s plan was cynicism.
“Who’s providing the context and is that context going to be accurate?,” he asked. “I think it’s fair to ask difficult questions about this. These are images that are a part of our history – good, bad, right, or wrong – and we need to have conversations about them all, but the question becomes what is the starting point for that conversation? Should the starting point be the actual image or should the starting point be the university administration’s summary, if I could use that phrase, of the image and what they see to be the context.”
Instead, Fauntroy said he’d like to see the university initiate some sort of program that would help educate their broader community, not just students.
He suggested bringing in experts and holding seminars as an example of something that may be more beneficial than the school’s current plan.