More Race Obsession: “Corks and Curls”

As the University of Virginia continues to fixate on its long-past history of racism, a new controversy is emerging: Is the name of the UVa yearbook, “Corks and Curls” racist? And should the name be changed?

Here is the explanation offered in the inaugural edition of the publication in 1888, as summarized by the Washington Post, quoting Kirt von Daake, a UVa history professor:

Editors note that the name, “this cabalistic phrase,” must be “almost meaningless to an outsider.” The editors then present an essay explaining the name, written by a fictitious student, von Daacke said. “Cork” was used to evoke “the real agony of the unprepared student,” who, when called on in class, “sitteth and openeth not his mouth, even as a bottle that is corked up.”

“Curls” was attributed to a legend about an ambitious student who, when praised by a visiting George Washington, seemed “as pleased as a dog when he is patted on his head” and curls his tail in delight.

… Starting in the 1860s, U-Va. publications, letters and diaries contain references to corking and curling as academic slang.

But Princeton history professor Rhae Lynn Barnes has a different theory. She has written that UVa’s yearbook got the name from blackface traditions, referencing “minstrel slang for the burned cork used to blacken faces and the curly Afro wigs that were signature costume pieces.

So… Back when UVa’s student body overwhelmingly shared the racist views of most Southern whites and had not the slightest inkling of controversies that would erupt a century later, the editors of the 1888 “Corks and Curls” chose to conceal the derivation of the name? That’s a stretch.

But Daake suggests the name might have conveyed a double meaning, and the double meaning might have referred to minstrel blackface, and minstrel blackface was racist. On that basis, the Post quotes a Cavalier Daily news editor who believes that most students will “feel passionately” that the yearbook’s name should be changed.

There is evidence aplenty of racism during the Jim Crow Virginia. It is a history of which Virginians should be ashamed. But the need to impute racism to every word and deed reflects the 21st-century obsession with race more than the 19th-century obsession.

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31 responses to “More Race Obsession: “Corks and Curls”

  1. William and Mary’s was (don’t know if it still is) called the Colonial Echo. Clearly recalling a happier time of slavery and oppression, right? Gotta fix that!

    You know… I…don’t….actually….care. Google “Cork and Curls” and all you get is the yearbook, the phrase has no other point of reference. What the $#@ is a Wahoo other than a fish? Why should the yearbook title actually mean something? If asked I would have assumed, based on my observation of UVA during its all-male days, that the yearbook title referred to alcohol indulgence and an obsession with the (absent) opposite sex.

  2. Hold on a minute, it is not only UVA’s past that was horrible rotten and corrupt. At UVA today most all students are victims of America’s white patriarchy, including their fathers if they be white males because they too are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, white male supremacists, you name it, among us, including among their own children.”

    Hence, as explained earlier here, UVA’s Department of English when describing itself to its own students, says:

    “ABOUT US –

    The English Department teaches texts that reflect and permit study of a wide range of voices. In order to do what we do well, we must be a place in which all students—the student who feels endangered because of threats based on gender, sexuality, race, religion, immigration status, body type; the student who has felt unwelcome because of unpopular political views; the student who is feeling isolated; the student who believes in the enabling properties of literature and language, the student who fears power that has been associated with literature and language, the student who is unsure what literature and language mean in a time like ours—feel welcome. All such students, indeed all UVa students, are welcome in our department and in our classrooms.”

    UVA’s English Department takes its mission very seriously. Hence it says it has about 100 to 110 professors and instructors to teach less than 400 claimed English majors, including roughly 65 professors who are said to devote their time to teaching at the post graduate level.

    And what do this great professors teach at UVA you might ask? To study English at UVA, here is what undergraduates had to wade through in course offerings this past year (Fall 2018; Spring 2018). This is a sampling. Read it all to get the message.


    Jim Crow America -Instructors: K. Ian Grandison and Marlon Ross

    Why has Jim Crow persisted? This course examines how the Jim Crow regime was established in New England during the early republic, how it was nationalized after the Civil War, and how it has been perpetuated into the present, despite the passage of 1960s Civil Rights legislation. What have been the changing modes of maintaining Jim Crow particularly in law (including law enforcement), education, planning, public health, and mass media (newspapers, film, radio, and social media); and what strategies have African Americans used to fight Jim Crow segregation, discrimination, disenfranchisement, and economic exclusion. Focus will be placed on Charlottesville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. as case studies. The course culminates in a required field trip to Richmond.

    Black Queer Culture – Instructor: Timothy Griffiths

    In the now-essential critical anthology Black Queer Studies (2005), scholars … announced three primary reasons for the formalization of black queer cultural studies: the need for a usable past in African American culture for black queer people, the traditionally patriarchal and heterosexist tendencies of African American cultural studies, and a perceived inhospitality in women’s and gender studies toward research on race as it intersected with gender and sexuality. When Barry Jenkins’ film Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2017, it was a sign to some that at least some minor progress had been made in the cultural representation of queer people of color. “Intersectionality,” though not always adequately defined, is now an acknowledged conceptual keyword of liberal and leftist culture. And in women’s and gender studies and African American studies, it is now becoming a given that critiques of race, gender, and sexuality are not hermetically sealed discourses, that the elevations and devaluations of certain identitarian markers are constellated in both deliberate and latent fashions. What are the primary critical problems faced by black queer cultural studies now and in the future? How can we continue to expand the usable past of black queer culture, opening up African American cultural production across its history to a black queer critical audience? Where have increases in black queer cultural representation succeeded and what are the discontents of cultural representation as a primary ethic of black queer liberation? How can or should we understand the relationship between the discursive histories of black feminism and black queer culture, and what conflicts have arisen in their mutual (but not always well-mapped) related growth? And finally, how do the anthologizing practices and theorizations of black queer culture elevate or exclude various iterations of black queer cultural expression, identity, or history? To answer these questions, we will engage a very broadly defined canon of black queer literature …

    American Natures – Instructor: Mary Kuhn

    This course explores an unconventional literary history of environmental thinking in America from the late eighteenth century to the present. We’ll move beyond the traditional environmental canon into (one) () one that gives us diverse perspectives on humanity’s connections to land and nature. We’ll focus on how writers have cultivated different forms and scales of environmental thought, and how they have positioned environmental thinking in relation to issues of social and environmental justice, including land dispossession, slavery, imperialism, and labor exploitation tied to resource extraction …

    Feminist Theory – Instructor: Susan Fraiman

    An introduction to US feminist criticism and theory. This course pairs novels and other works by women with critical and theoretical essays in order to contrast diverse feminist approaches. The syllabus is also informed by queer and critical race theory as well as postcolonial and cultural studies. I expect to explore such themes as mobility and migration, mother-daughter relations, the “male gaze,” incarceration/escape, female masculinity, and conflicts/commonalities among women. We will also broach such theoretical issues as how to periodize the development of feminist theory, the contributions of queer theory, the logic of canon formation, and the way gender intersects with other axes of identity (race, sexuality, disability, class, etc.) …

    Race in American Places – Instructor: Kenrick Grandison

    This interdisciplinary seminar uses the method of Critical Landscape Analysis to explore how everyday places and spaces, “landscapes,” are involved in the negotiation of power in American society. Landscapes, as we engage the idea, may encompass seemingly private spaces (within the walls of a suburban bungalow or of a government subsidized apartment) to seemingly public spaces (the vest pocket park in lower Manhattan where the Occupy Movement was launched in September 2011; the Downtown Mall, with its many privately operated outdoor cafés, that occupy the path along which East Main Street once flowed freely in Charlottesville; or even the space of invisible AM and FM radio waves that the FCC supposedly regulates in the public’s interest). We launch our exploration by considering landscapes as arenas of the Culture Wars. With this context, we unearth ways in which places are planned, designed, constructed, and mythologized in the struggle to assert and enforce social (especially racial) distinctions, difference, and hierarchy. You will be moved to understand how publicly financed freeways were planned not only to facilitate some citizens’ modern progress, but also to block others from accessing rights, protections, and opportunities to which casually we believe all “Americans” are entitled. We study landscapes not only as represented in written and non-written forms, but also through direct sensory, emotional, and intellectual experience during two mandatory field trips to places in our region. In addition to informal group exercises and individual mid-term exam, critical field trip reflection paper, and final exam, you are required to complete in small groups a final research project on a topic you choose that relates to the seminar. Past topics have ranged from the racial politics of farmers’ markets in gentrifying inner cities to the gender–and the transgender exclusion—politics of universal standards for public restroom pictograms. Students showcase such results in an informal symposium that culminates the semester. Not only will you expand the complexity and scope of your critical thinking abilities, but also you will never again experience as ordinary the spaces and places you encounter from day to day.


    Conjuring Race and Gender in National Memory – Instructors: Sarah Ingle

    This course examines the various forms of literal and figurative “conjuring” that have been used throughout American history to create and control the boundaries of race and gender. What is the source of this magic that has the power to turn a person into a piece of property or a woman into a second-class citizen? How does this metamorphosis take place? Throughout the semester, we will use literature, film, music, and other artistic media to explore how American writers and other artists have used conjuring as a metaphor to help them represent the strange ways in which race and gender transform and control people’s lives, as well as the powers that enable individuals to resist those transformations …

    Post-Reconstruction – Instructor: Timothy Griffiths

    In this course we will examine American literature of the Post-Reconstruction period, an under regarded and amorphous time in American literary development occurring between roughly 1877–1914. With a special emphasis on African American and women’s literature, we will consider how writers of this period anticipated American modernism; radically altered thought on the intersectional nature of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the republic; and gave birth to literary movements that are still vital today …

    Theories of Reading – Instructor: Rita Felski

    How and why do we read? …This course is divided into two parts. The first part, on critical reading, surveys influential forms of literary theory, including structuralism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, feminism, postcolonialism, and queer theory. In the second half, we will explore everyday experiences of reading that are either ignored or treated with suspicion in literary theory: identification and recognition; empathy; enchantment and self-loss; horror and shock; fandom and the pleasure of collective reading …

    Contemporary Disability Theory – Instructor: Christopher Krentz

    In the last several decades, thinking about people with physical, cognitive, and sensory differences has moved from an exclusively pathological medical-based understanding to a more rights-based framework. In this course we will consider how conceptions of disability have changed and how these theories relate to the depiction of disabled people in literature … Students in the class will also be asked to attend at least one disability-related event on Grounds …

    Critical Race theory – Instructor: Marlon Ross

    What does race mean in the late 20th and early 21st century? Given the various ways in which race as a biological “fact” has been discredited, why and how does race continue to have vital significance in politics, economics, education, culture, arts, mass media, and everyday social realities? How has the notion of race shaped, and been shaped by, changing relations to other experiences of identity stemming from sexuality, class, disability, multiculturalism, nationality, and globalism? This course surveys major trends in black literary and cultural theory from the 1960s to the present, focusing on a series of critical flashpoints that have occurred over the last several decades. These flashpoints include: 1) the crisis over black authenticity during the Black Power/ Black Arts movement; 2) the schisms related to womanism (or women of color feminism), focused on Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple and the Steven Spielberg film adaptation; 3) the debate over the social construction of race (poststructuralist theory); 4) the debate over queer racial identities, focused on two films, Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman and Barry Jenkins’ 2016 film Moonlight; 5) racial violence and the law, focused on the Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement; and 6) the aesthetic movement called Afrofuturism. Other reading will include a variety of theoretical essays and chapters drawn from different disciplines, including legal theory, film and media studies, sociology, history, political theory, and hip hop studies. While concentrating on theories of race deriving from African American studies, we’ll also touch on key texts from Native American, Asian-American, and Chicanx studies. The goal of the course is to give you a solid grounding in the vocabulary, key figures, concepts, debates, and discursive styles comprising the broad sweep of theoretical race studies from the late- twentieth century to the present, and to nurture your own theorizing about race and its deep cultural impact.


    • Another words, UVA’s English faculty appear to hate the very people who established UVA, and paid for and taught at the place, and who maintained it over the years, and to also hate those very same people who now pay the vast majority of bills there to feed the place and keep it going today, and most especially they appear to hate UVA biggest financial donors by far, those who belonged to fraternities at UVA. Hate appears to rank very high among UVA’s major accomplishments most recently, especially since the ascendancy and rule of Teresa Sullivan. Well, you reap what you sow. In this case it’s our kids.

  3. Reed hit the nail on the head.
    They don’t like those who created a flawed but freest civilization ever to exist. It can always be improved, but there has never been one better for the most people.
    Personally I give nothing to any groups any more who proclaim in the slightest that they dislike or must stand up to whites or men. If that is a major mission or focus, they can have what they want and be free of my white male time or money.

    • Of course, this has been going on for years, and chronically, so at least once a year, if not more during the reign of Teresa Sullivan, matters have boiled over into hysteria on the grounds of UVa.

      For example, recall the commentary following Jim Bacon’s fine post titled The Cult of Personal Fragility, published here on February 8, 2018, just over one year ago.

      Reed Fawell 3rd
      Recall from a recent post here that Patrick Hogan, Chief Operating Officer of the University of Virginia at an annual salary reported to be $450,000, sent an email community advisory on Jan 19 to students, faculty, and staff asking that people witnessing “suspicious activity” such as posting “offensive flyers and memes” to please call 911.”

      Here is how UVA’s Chief Operations officer described what he apparently considered an existential threat to UVA students.

      “The University of Virginia is aware of reports of solicitations by national organizations to encourage distribution of offensive flyers and memes at colleges and universities across the country during the upcoming weekend. The reports indicate that the organizations are specifically interested in buildings and centers for under-represented groups, particularly Women’s Studies. We are not aware of any specific threats to the University of Virginia and its facilities. We still believe it is prudent to make members of the University community aware of this possible activity.

      If you witness individuals engaged in suspicious activity, including posting offensive flyers or other material in violation of the University’s Policy on Exterior Posting and Chalking, please call 911.

      The University Police Department and the Ambassadors are aware of this information and will be closely monitoring activities on and near Grounds. We will be maintaining an enhanced security environment across Grounds this weekend.

      The safety and well being of every member of the University community remains our top priority, and we ask for your assistance in remaining vigilant of your surroundings.”

      Imagine the example this senior officer at UVA sets for students. No wonder large groups of UVA students have recently suffered from multiple episodes of chronic hysteria. Why should Mr. Hogan not be fired? Or at the least be put on an extended leave of absence under supervision of a qualified health care professional until competent authorities can certify that UVA’s Chief Operations Officer has been cured of his chronic anxiety disorder.

      Reed Fawell 3rd
      Jim –
      This is confidential but I’m getting reliable local reports out of Charlottesville that “suspicious activities on or near the Grounds” has been spotted by University police and UVA Ambassadors. Apparently three white Caucasian males are now thought to be lurking about UVA buildings and centers for under-represented groups, particularly Women’s Studies, carrying satchels full of “offensive flyers and memes” thought to be printed copies of Bacon Rebellion postings & comments.

      One report just out now fingers Andrew and Don, and yes you Jim, as the culprits. Accordingly Patrick Hogan, Chief Operating Officer of the University of Virginia, is said to have placed the University on High Alert and summoned outside support from out of state, forces now on their way to the scene.

      This is confidential, of course, but I will keep you posted, Jim. And meanwhile suggest utmost caution by all involved in this important operation. Good Luck. And Good Hunting.

      Andrew Roesell |
      But, Reed, YOU told me to do it! ;-))<

      Reed Fawell 3rd
      No Andrew, I said “case the joint.”
      It did not say go in there armed with memes and flyers in satchels before we had backup reinforcements in place.

      Ooooh! Ooooh. ‘Microaggression!’ I’m going to turn you in and trigger a year’s worth of bureaucratic factfinding (unless you buy me off).

      Reed Fawell 3rd
      News Break – Another senior official at UVA has identified and issued a warning alert for more offensive memes threatening our democracy, this time located not in the Rotunda on the Grounds of UVA but instead lying in state in the Rotunda of the US Congress in Washington DC.

      Barbara Perry, the Gerard L. Baliles Professor and Director of presidential studies at the Miller Center for presidential and political history at the University of Virginia, sounded the Alarm proclaiming that “honoring someone whose primary service was the conversion of people to a certain faith with a Rotunda ceremony violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Although Graham was an adviser to presidents, Perry noted, tapes came out later revealing Graham and President Richard M. Nixon sharing anti-Semitic views, and civil rights historians have noted that Graham urged the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others not to press hard on the cause of racial equality.

      “Not that he shouldn’t be lauded, but does he deserve to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol? And once you open that door, where do you stop?” Perry said. “Lying in honor should be someone who served their country. Well, how did he do that?”

      Note please the gratuitous smear of a dead man lying in state.

      See Michelle Boorstein Washington Post’s article found at:
      The Article was also linked into and advertised in UVA Today.

      — End Quoted Insert—-

      In short, UVA has been living on the edge of near constant hysteria from most of this second decade of the 21st Century. The bad guys are white men, and Christians .

      • I am easy to keep track of in Charlottesville. You can find me …

        1) At the John Paul Jones Center during home basketball games.
        2) At the Virginian, especially during Happy Hour and on Mellow Corn night.
        3) In the attic of a certain large house on Madison Lane, especially during meetings of the “Wahoo Botany Club.”
        4) At The White Spot eating Gusburgers – especially after meetings of the Wahoo Botany Club.

        I never knew there was an English Department at UVA. Since I learned to speak English long before I got to UVA why would I have studied it again?

        If there would have been a woman’s study building when I went to UVA I am sure I would have spent a lot of time there. Studying women consumed an inordinate amount of my time. However, I almost always studied women at TJs, which I hear is now closed down.

        While I am no threat to anybody in Charlottesville I am the only person considered a “permanent person of interest” in Richmond. One time when I got within a block of the Capitol Building the alert was sounded and some guy name Morrissey ran out to his car and came back into the General Assembly session with a semi-automatic rifle. Just this year a female member of the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond came to the session wearing a holstered pistol. She said she was worried “that guy from BaconsRebellion” was coming to remove a statue of Harry F Byrd, Sr.

  4. Well.. I think blacks and women likely got their rumps in an uproar when they realized that the Founding Fathers got carried away with the phrase “all men created equal” ,,,,.. then it went downhill from there


    and…. yep…. they’re still not over it……….

    • Not exactly Larry. A plurality of African American voters in Virginia find blackface to be acceptable when done by a Democratic officeholder. Black leaders don’t appear to find it acceptable as most of them have called for Northam to step down.

      • @TMT – no, not really “acceptable” but given the reality of the alternatives… the choice – i.e. would it be better to favor the GOP and their behaviors towards blacks?

        and not just right, now today – …

        but over a longer time …

        and … black folks today -in their heart of hearts – do they consider what UVA is doing right now – an “obsession with race” or something else?

        Are white folks really “tuned” into what black folks actually feel on these issues or are we content to believe what we prefer to?

        • The word “acceptable” fits like a glove. I’m sure that every black person in Virginia would find blackface offensive. And most black leaders called on Northam to resign. But the polls show that a majority of blacks polled are willing to accept Northam’s conduct and cover-up attempt by not wanting him to leave office. That’s what the word “acceptable” means.

  5. “Curls” was attributed to a legend about an ambitious student who, when praised by a visiting George Washington, seemed “as pleased as a dog when he is patted on his head” and curls his tail in delight.

    George Washington died 20 years before UVA was founded. Although, upon reflection, there was a kamikazee party at my fraternity one night when I not only saw George Washington but had a long conversation with him too.

    • Thank you for confirming my decision to throw all the UVA application materials into the wastebasket, DJ….the National Merit thing had them very excited, but I had no interest. Being sober at least occasionally worked out better for me, as did the 50-50 gender ratio at W&M. I think understanding what that ratio meant disqualified me for UVA anyway.

      • The gender ratio at UVA? What color horse did you ride into Williamsburg when you started up at William & Mary? UVA started admitting women in 1970 and was admitting more women than men by 1980.

        I never bothered with the admission materials from William and Mary. For one thing, I was good at math so what would have been the point? I also knew enough NoVa kids who went there that I was convinced being bored to death was a real possibility. I would have fallen asleep before I could have possibly finished reading the W&M admission materials.

        Gotta love this …

        The W&M football team was nicknamed “The Orange and White” after the team colors.

        The uniform colors changed to the “Orange and Black,” because the white became dirty too quickly, according to one report. The team was consequently called “The Orange and Black.”

        Thirteen years to come up with a team name better than the color of the uniforms and they couldn’t do it.

  6. I am not sure how the discussion wandered from the name of the UVa yearbook to a bashing of the English dept. The “sampling” of courses offered is quite selective. Looking at the courses offered in the current semester reveals courses that do include works by “white men”:
    American Renaissance (Poe, Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Thoreau)
    Faulkner (whole course)
    Emerson, Dickinson, Whitman
    Passion, Murder, and Mayhem (including works by Sophocles, Euripides, and Shakespeare)
    History of Literature in English (Some authors studied: Wordsworth, Dickens, Poe, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot)

    • Dick,

      There is a damn good reason why I selected the courses, I did. I focus on results, the end product, what students learn, and what they do not learn, and what is in fact is being pushed and sold in the classroom, and swallowed by far too many kids, whether they like it or not, and I do not listed course that far far too often it are being belittled, insulted, short changed and so no are dying on the vine, close to death, barely hanging on, at far too many elite and select universities. The classic humanities such as represented by the works you mentioned above have been for decades, and are now, being grievously abused, and along with the students who want to study them as they are written, not reinterpreted by so rabid ideologue.

      How do I know this?

      Because I read what professors in the humanities write, the good, the bad, and the ugly ones of all stripes. By and large, the humanities worthy of the name have in far too many schools and classrooms committed suicide. What amazes me is that we as a society, the vast majority of us, have let it happen, as if how professors educate our kids does not matter at all. It’s a national tragedy. One where the fight was mostly lost in the 1980s.

    • Here is a typo corrected and finished version:


      There is a damn good reason why I selected the courses, I did.

      I focus on results, the end product, what students learn, and what they do not learn, and what is in fact is being pushed and sold in the classroom, and force fed and swallowed by far too many kids, whether they like it or not. I did not focus on the listed course that far far too often are being belittled, insulted, short changed, abused, and misrepresented and so are dying on the vine, indeed close to death, barely hanging on, at far too many elite and select universities.

      In short, the classic humanities such as represented by the works you mentioned above have been for decades, and are now, being grievously abused, and along with the students who want to study them as they are written, not as they are being reinterpreted and twisted out of shape by so rabid ideologues, using corrupted theories of modern education.

      How do I know this?

      Because I read what professors in the humanities write, the good, the bad, and the ugly ones, of all stripes. By and large, the humanities worthy of the name have in far too many schools and classrooms have committed suicide. What amazes me is that we as a society, the vast majority of us, have let it happen, as if how professors educate our kids does not matter at all. It’s a national tragedy. One where the fight was mostly lost in the 1980s, but is now at long last being rekindled.

      • Reed,
        I don’t really like the establishment of narrow, niche courses in the humanities. In some cases, I understand the motivation–traditional English lit courses, for example, probably overlooked or ignored women or ethnic authors. In other cases, however, the motivation is clearly ideological or political and that is unfortunate.
        I came along before most of these courses became the fad and I can’t comment on whether traditional works are “being grievously abused” or “twisted out of shape”. I would appreciate some examples.
        I do worry, not that humanities are committing suicide, but that humanities are being pushed aside in higher education as not being relevant in the modern world to gaining employment. Recently, I read of a college in Michigan that was eliminating history courses. When humanities courses are no longer required for a college degree, then our colleges and universities will have ceased to be institutions of higher education and will have become simply job training facilities and society will be the worse off for it.

  7. I have friends and relatives who are sensitive about historical events that they and their families and friends have had to undergo or survive. Of my native tribal friends and family, I could say, “why can’t you just let bygones be bygones?” After all, the America that you are in now is not the America where so many of your ancestors suffered or lost resources and land.

    Of my Vietnam vet friends and family, I could say, “why can’t you just let bygones be bygones?” After all, the America that you are in now is not the America where so many of you and your fellow servicemen served in a horrific war and suffered great loss.

    And, of course, with my African American friends, I could also say, “why can’t you just let bygones be bygones?” After all, the America that you are in now is not the America where so many of your ancestors were enslaved, had their spirits broken, suffered by the whip, or were lynched. And, in fact, some of your ancestors “behaved” and made it up to the big house, where they were fully employed and treated better, although they were never considered equal.

    It is difficult to judge a person’s sensitivity to history that may still impact that person today. The lack of understanding of why there could be trends in schools and our culture to address this sensitivity (or lack of sensitivity) is a perfect example of why curriculum exists to address it.

    As much as we may want to believe that those situations could not reoccur and harm those fellow friends and family, that historical trauma may still remain as potent history, with the possibility that the terrible situation that could happen again. Having nazis, white supremacists, and neo-confederates march through the streets of Charlottesville, with some saluting our current Pres. Trump, was shocking and belied any comfort for many that such historical treatment of fellow humans could never happen again.

    Is it possible that each of us may have specific “blind spots” in our awareness due to our own upbringing and limited education and knowledge? Is it possible for us to learn more, understand in a deeper sense, and become more sensitive and compassionate re: our fellow humans who may have disparate backgrounds and histories that may be difficult for us to fully comprehend?

    I would like to see an African American scholar or two be invited here to Bacon’s Rebellion to discuss and debate these issues along with us. I readily admit that I may not know all there is to know about these matters, and I seek to know more, rather than defend my limited knowledge. I believe that it is possible to become more knowledgeable and more understanding re: embedded racism and its historical reality. Such developing awareness may come at the risk of our own blind spot or conditioned biases. The pain of surrendering our conditioned bias can be overcome if we keep the goal of better understanding each other and fully respecting each other as a prime focus.

    • Your list seems a bit selective. We could add Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Italians, Irish, people with Slavic ancestry easily to the list. All of those groups received the fruits of extreme bias in the United States. We still have two sitting U.S. Senators attacking judicial nominees for membership in the Knights of Columbus.

      But their experiences of these people and their descendants are ignored when the left screams for restitution and redistributed justice. Why? Could the left have ” specific ‘blind spots’ in our awareness due to our own upbringing and limited education and knowledge”?

    • I would welcome thoughtful op-ed contributions from African-Americans on this blog. I am perfectly comfortable with people presenting differing points of view. Indeed, I encourage it.

  8. “I would like to see an African American scholar or two be invited here to Bacon’s Rebellion to discuss and debate these issues along with us.”

    No one invited me to this discussion.

    No “African American scholar” needs my or anyone else’s permission to participate here. That would be insulting in the deepest way imaginable to all involved. We all feel pain. It’s no excuse whatsoever. Instead it is a privilege for all of us to overcome and master. For no one is special in this world. And no one is privileged by reason of their color, birth, and parentage. We are all human after all, and each of us in no better or worse than the rest of us.

    • Certainly, no one is inherently “privileged”. But, many have advantages by reason of their color, birth, and parentage. As a result of those advantages, e.g. wealth, they have access to many privileges–education, access through social networks, etc.

  9. Reed F, I agree with you, no invitation is needed. But consider the context. The very subject we are discussing under this post is the hypersensitivity of some black scholars to see racist content where none was (likely) intended. Personally I agree with Steve Haner’s interpretation of the yearbook name: “Corks and Curls” simply refers to wine and women — the non-academic “relaxed” side of student life on the Grounds, in the 1880s and since. But what if someone sees a disparaging racist comment there and wants to argue that point seriously and with documentation in an essay here? I invite him [or her – please!]; I’ll reach out to him to solicit his views if that will help. I’ll read it; I’m open to persuasion that all too much of what I was raised to accept at face value was at least a cultural double entendre back in the day it originated. I’m well aware that people with unpopular views, whether cultural or economic or scientific, have a hard time bucking “conventional wisdom” to get a fair hearing. But let me add, if such an essay here fails to make more than the strained, petulant case for revisionist history and reparations that we’ve seen so much of on college campuses lately, I reserve the right to disagree here, emphatically so; and hopefully there would be others who call it like they see it.

    • Arbar –

      Somewhere between 620,000 and 750,000 people fought and died in a Civil War died to solve this issue. Another million or so were wounded and maimed in the struggle. Millions lost their livelihoods. Never before in human history has an nation paid such an internal terrible price to try to solve such a problem. Since then that nation has paid hundreds of $billions, more likely $trillions, to fix the problem. Never in the history of mankind has any nation spend so much treasure and made so much effort to bring all its people into the full fruits of its community, and found success for so many. And no other nation has come close to such effort, or such success, despite our failures to date, as so vividly illustrated in recent posts. But these sorts of problems, these pains, these injustices, and horrors are ubiquitous throughtout all of human history, afflicting all races, all peoples throughout all times everywhere. Look up the history of slavery, as one example. Try Karol Woztjyla’s (Pope John Paul) formative life experience along with the entire polish nation for generation upon generation, including what he called and personally experienced, the “humiliation at the hands of evil” for years, with the stink of death, including so many he loved, all around him, and what he did and built with that experience, along with all those in the Blood-lands of Eastern Europe, indeed all of Europe. And so many millions of others have similarly done everywhere around the world. What Americans today, all of us, suffer is next to nothing compared to these untold generations of sacrifices that have gone before us, and given to us, including our lives. And yet, all of us, everyone of us, suffer grievously too, every day of out lives. Yet, at this very time, I see in this most blessed nation in history a determined effort by some to erase, and extinguish its whole culture, and history, one which this nation and its civilization, with all its faults, has given us in riches beyond history’s wildest imagination. Much of this cultural genocide, these acts to erase our history, culture and heritage, goes on everyday in our universities, and has been for decades.

      Why? Hate and envy? Greed, Pride For what?

      I will not return it. But I will not cater to what is going on. Nor will I pander to it. Nor bow to it. Nor make nice about it. Or be lectured about it. Nor will I fail to call it for what it is. Otherwise there will be no end to it. Surely the past is proof of that.

      But I will to try to help all those involved as best I can. And respect every individual I come across, based on his or her respect for me, my heritage, family, and culture.

  10. I think hearing from blacks themselves on these issues will better inform us than just listening to our own “white” selves. We do
    see others apparently invited here to blog and I, for one, wouldn’t
    mind hearing a black perspective on these issues. Things feel a little lopsided on the race issue here at times.

    I note that UVA was working on this BEFORE the blackface issue exploded – AND they WERE (and still are) criticized for their efforts by some folks including on these pages – more than once.

    Published in “Inside Higher Ed” Augst 8, 2018 ” Reconciling the Two Jeffersons The University of Virginia has long promoted ideas about Thomas Jefferson that glossed over his racist beliefs and ownership of slaves.

    “The University of Virginia is eager to tout the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, its most well-known founder. The first line of UVA’s “about” page states that the third U.S. president founded the university in 1819 and describes his vision as “a bold experiment — a public university designed to advance human knowledge, educate leaders and cultivate an informed citizenry.”

    It’s also true that Jefferson, who owned 607 slaves during his lifetime, envisioned UVA to be “an institution with slavery at its core and in his words ” slavery was “evil,” [but] he also believed that “African Americans were incapable of the full fruits of freedom,” and that “to end slavery would be to invite race war,”

    That information is included in a 96-page report (President’s Commission on Slavery and the University) released in late July by the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University.

    The commission was convened in 2013 by the then president, Teresa Sullivan to examine the university’s racist past. The report details the university’s history with slavery and, uncharacteristically, acknowledges Jefferson’s participation in slavery.”

    The argument is WHY is UVA doing this? And the answers to that question vary wildly depending on one’s race and political leanings.

    • The fundamental difficulty with digging up the racist past is this question: are we revisiting the past better to understand relations between the races today — what’s wrong, how to correct it going forward — or are we ALSO undertaking to make amends for the past — apologize, give compensatory preferences (aff. act.), pay reparations? The Nation is deeply divided over this. I think a pretty clear majority say, “I don’t discriminate; what my ancestors did or tolerated was wrong, but that was then and this is now.”

      The Northam thing reminds us, it’s not that easy to eliminate racial stereotypes from our culture, ones that still emerge in “innocent” ways that are deeply offensive to the minorities so carelessly (or deliberately) maligned. But history also reminds us that immigrant groups like the mid-western Norwegians, the Irish, Chinese, Latinos, have all gone through or still suffer discriminatory treatment. Isn’t the Black-White divide simply the most difficult of these? Why does that divide alone require remediation rather than simply time to eliminate? Is Charles Murray correct that we are “falling apart” because we don’t insist on a shared American culture but allow such striking variations, even variations of language, that white and black see the other first as “other” and deep friendships across the divide are difficult, troubled, too rare. Or is that the past generation’s dated perception and the kids coming up through our more blended society already destined to be the ones to really put race consciousness behind them?

      Personally, I draw the line at the whole reparations concept, but apology is different; apology is an action in the present acknowledging the past not trying to undo it. And I have to admit, there were things done during the Jim Crow era that were intended to be hurtful, like naming black schools and highways for Lost Cause heroes, like in-your-face statues in front of every courthouse reminding all who enter there who it is that controls the law. Those symbols can be changed going forward, with an apology. But the fact of slavery? The fact of its economic importance in the development of the South? Erasure of everything accomplished by those who tolerated these conditions? Reparation for what they did? Its cousin, affirmative action? I’ll listen to those who argue for breaking down otherwise impenetrable cultural barriers, getting society “over the hump” toward color-blindness, but the resentment these leave in their wake can be terrible and long-lasting, too.

      So why is UVA doing this? Re-examining the past is due. Pretending that the past can be erased, its achievements as well as failings ignored, is crazy. Rejecting the efforts, often inadequate, of past leaders to eliminate racial discrimination can reveal character flaws and even hypocrisy that we should acknowledge, but doesn’t mean the good they did, the strengths they displayed, the compromises they came up with, should be consigned to the trash can. What person in history was so perfectly blameless that they could pass such scrutiny? Hopefully, UVA is teaching this distinction as the way to understand and move forward. If, instead, they yield to the revisionists, who would only study the past in order to erase it, to shame people today for their roots in it, they will have only made the racial divide deeper.

  11. Dear Reed,

    I deny EVERYTHING! Especially my denials!



  12. This whole debate ended when I read …

    “… Starting in the 1860s, U-Va. publications, letters and diaries contain references to corking and curling as academic slang.”

    I can’t see how the cork of blackface and the curl of a minstrel’s wig could pertain to unprepared students sitting silently and/or complimented students beaming.

    Given that the use of “corks” and “curls” as vernacular for student behavior preceded the yearbook name by 20+ years I rate the contention that the yearbook name is racist to be 4 Herrings.

    • And, Don, in stark contrast, here is what’s happening on college campuses today:

      “Since 1995, Young America’s Foundation has released “Comedy and Tragedy” to document the intellectual abuse and flat-out indoctrination happening by way of the appalling curriculum at our country’s most (so-called) prestigious institutions of higher education.

      The full report covering 250+ courses at more than 50 of America’s top-ranked colleges and universities can be viewed and downloaded here, but keep reading for YAF’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list.

      “Gender in Gaming” – University of Illinois ENGL 277
      “Eco/Queer/Feminist Art Practices” – University of Michigan WOMENSTD 434
      “Marx for Today” – University of Minnesota CSCL 3405
      “Unsettling Whiteness” – Northwestern University AFAMST 339
      “Queering God: Feminist and Queer Theology” – Swarthmore College RELG 032
      “American Misogyny” – Middlebury College AMST 0325
      “Latinx Sexual Dissidence and Guerrilla Translation” – Davidson College LAS 394
      “Marx in the 21st Century” – Princeton University FRS 139
      “Queering Childhood” – Pomona College GWS 142
      “Cuba from Emancipation to Revolution” – University of Georgia HIST 4211
      “Global Capitalism and Racism” – University of Tennessee SOCI 460
      “Humanity or Nah? Blackness, Gender, Resistance, and Memory in Monuments, Maps, and Archives” – Brown University GNSS 1961

      For additional information on YAF’s Comedy & Tragedy Report or to request an interview, contact Young America’s Foundation Spokesman Spencer Brown via [email protected] or 800-872-1776.”

      And they still call this garbage an education at our elite schools.

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