“The World of Henry Billups: Jim Crow at the College of William and Mary” Exhibit

“The World of Henry Billups: Jim Crow at the College of William and Mary” Exhibit
Virginia Lawyers
Image by Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library
Shown here is an image from the exhibit "The World of Henry Billups: Jim Crow at the College of William and Mary," on display in the third floor rotunda gallery of Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. The exhibit was curated by students in Jody Allen’s "World of Henry Billups" class and the Special Collections Research Center staff. The exhibit will be on display from April 28-November 7, 2011.

The following is taken from the label text presented in this case:

Jim Crow in the Williamsburg Area was curated by Kellie O’Malley, Elliott Perkins, and Amanda Reynolds.

Jim Crow in the Williamsburg Area

After the Civil War, the United States was fraught with racial divisions, and Williamsburg was not exempt from these tenuous conditions. During the first half of the twentieth century Jim Crow laws played a strong role in the Williamsburg community. The purpose of this case is to demonstrate the effects of Jim Crow in the Williamsburg area through black and white perspectives.

Marilyn Kaemmerle Editorial

In 1945, Marilyn Kaemmerle was a senior at the College of William & Mary, and editor of the Flat Hat, a student-run newspaper. In the February 7th edition of the Flat Hat Kaemmerle wrote an unattributed editorial titled, “Lincoln’s Job Half-Done.” Kaemmerle argued that although blacks were formally free by law, they were not equal. The release of this editorial caused a massive reaction that spread much further than the William & Mary campus. In response to Kaemmerle’s editorial, newspapers nationwide published articles, editorials and letters to the editor. The William & Mary Board of Visitors removed Kaemmerle from her position as editor of the Flat Hat instituting a policy of student censorship. In 1980, the Board of Visitors issued a formal apology to Marilyn Kaemmerle for her removal as Flat Hat editor. The Flat Hat, February 7, 1945.

The included clippings are articles and editorials from newspapers surrounding the Williamsburg area. The opinions of these editorials range from positive to negative and show the conflicted emotions Marilyn Kaemmerle’s editorial aroused in the community.

Various Newspaper Articles, Marilyn Kaemmerle Collection, 1945.

Photograph of Marilyn Kaemmerle on campus prior to the publication of her editorial “Lincoln’s Job Half-Done.”

Photograph, Marilyn Kaemmerle Collection, circa 1945.

Herman Recht was a lawyer turned Navy yeoman stationed at Camp Peary from October 1943 until February 1946. Recht’s wife Esther lived in Pennsylvania at the time. Recht was well educated and often came into Williamsburg to eat at the Williamsburg Lodge or borrow books from the William and Mary Library. One of the letters that Recht wrote to his wife highlighted the Kaemmerle incident. Recht met with Kaemmerle and a fellow sorority sister at their sorority house and they discussed the editorial. Recht wrote to Esther on twenty-fourth of February, 1945, sharing his opinion of Marilyn and describes of the community’s response. Recht’s knowledge of the editorial showed the scope of the scandal it caused. This incident was not a topic of community conversation. Although Recht was not originally from the Williamsburg area, while stationed in Camp Peary he made an effort to involve himself within the community. Recht’s response to Kaemmerle showed his interest to understand the situation; this response was not entirely atypical but there were many in the community that were upset about the editorial.

Herman Recht to Esther Recht, Herman Recht Papers, February 24, 1945.

Interview with Reverend Junius Moody

The Reverend Junius Moody was a teacher at Bruton Heights School and a pastor of New Zion Baptist Church. He came to live in Williamsburg in 1926 and taught in James City County for 30 years. He also served as chairman of the board and treasurer of the Community Action Agency. In this interview, the Reverend Moody remembers segregation in Williamsburg during the Jim Crow Era. He recalls the experience of segregation and its effects on black children. He also speaks about segregated train cars and schools. The Reverend Moody gave this interview on July 31, 1984.

Interview with Reverend Junius Moody, James City County Oral History Collection, July 31, 1984.

[Miss] W. T. Austin, Williamsburg, Virginia to Dr. Taylor, Williamsburg Virginia. Office of the President, Lyon G. Tyler, June 19, 1913.

Reproduction of a photograph of the Frontiers, Williamsburg Reunion Collection, 2010.

Photograph of Bruton Heights School
Exterior View of Bruton Heights School, black and white print. Visual Resources Collection, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Image # 1968-CK-623.

Williamsburg Voting Registries, White and Colored

While the 15th amendment granted all men the right to vote, by 1902 in Virginia most black men had lost this right. Voting records kept during the Jim Crow era exemplify the clearly racist policies present during the first half of the twentieth century. Votes made by white and black citizens were recorded in separate books. By juxtaposing the two record books, dissimilarities such as the disparity in number of voters and employment status, are easy to see.

Williamsburg Office of the Registrar Records, 1900-1963.

From the Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. See swem.wm.edu/scrc/ for further information and assistance.

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