As the University approaches its bicentennial, work has been under way to deepen and expand understanding of the institution’s history. This has included efforts by students, staff, faculty, and independent researchers, as well as institutionally sponsored initiatives. The work continues, with a central focus on developing this virtual exhibit, The University of Richmond: An Unfolding History. The exhibit will consider familiar figures and stories, as well as new research illuminating individuals and topics previously unaddressed, including the involvement of the institution and its leaders in enslavement. 

This website represents the first phase of the virtual exhibit, covering the years 1830-1840, spanning early Virginia Baptist education efforts, institutional formation and leaders, enslaved laborers on the campuses, the institution’s ties to First African Baptist Church, and the growth of the institution and its campuses. 

Initiated in 2022 and sponsored by the President and the Board of Trustees, An Unfolding History is the product of considerable collective effort and collaboration. We are especially grateful to:

  • Shelby M. Driskill, who served as the primary researcher and author of the content of Phase One;
  • The Virginia Baptist Historical Society, for their assistance accessing crucial archival materials and granting the use of numerous images for the exhibit;
  • Boatwright Memorial Library;
  • The Library of Virginia, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, the Valentine, the College of William and Mary, Duke University, and the Library of Congress, whose collections provided essential material, and in several cases, whose staffs arranged for access to their materials when facilities were closed due to the pandemic;
  • The Office of University Communications; 
  • The Office of Equity and Community; 
  • The Office of the Secretary to the Board of Trustees;  
  • Students, staff, and faculty who have offered perspectives on the site’s focus and content—both in the conceptual stage and in providing comments on the developing site; and
  • Trivium Interactive, who assisted in the design of the virtual exhibit website. 

The History of the University of Richmond: 1830-1971, by the late Dr. Reuben E. Alley, Sr., R’22, was also a valuable source of information in this project. 

This project, builds on many efforts:

  • The work of the Burying Ground Memorialization Committee (2020-2022), co-chaired by Dr. Ayers and VP for Information Services & CIO Keith McIntosh, and working in consultation with members of the descendant community, facilitated by Henrico County public historian Mrs. Brenda Dabney Nichols, to make recommendations to memorialize the enslaved burying ground—resulting in the memorial design process currently underway; 
  • Digitizing and making available to researchers Board of Trustees minutes from the era of Robert Ryland’s presidency, initiated by the Board and executed by the University’s Digital Scholarship Lab; and 
  • The extensive community-wide conversations concerning issues of naming at the University, including student-initiated efforts from WCGA and RCSGA resolutions to the Black Student Coalition’s advocacy, and the work of the Naming Principles Commission (2021-22) established by the Board of Trustees, resulting in the Board’s adoption of Naming Principles in spring 2022. 

We invite you to explore this exhibit and look forward to sharing future phases with you. Should you have questions, comments, or additional information to offer about the University’s history, please contact us here

Thank you for visiting An Unfolding History.

Ann Lloyd Breeden, Ph.D.                                                Amy Howard, Ph.D. Secretary to the Board of Trustees                                  Senior Administrative Officer for Equity and Community 

May 2023                                                                  

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