Virginia Tech in 1965 Kayla Mizelle

Virginia Tech on March 5, 1965, was, like most places in the US, divided. Up until this point in the presentations, Virginia Tech seemed as though it was the land that time had forgotten, but it is evident through The Virginia Tech that the issue of racial inequality was an area that the university could not ignore. On the Friday before this paper was issued the Corps of Cadets put on their annual Minstrel show (pictured below). This year, however, the students would not stand by and accept this kind of racism on their campus so a group of students stood outside Burras hall and picketed the show. In the paper, we see a letter to the editor that discusses how this student cannot understand how a group of college-educated people could watch this show. He is offended by the use of the “N” word and feels the Corps misjudgment poorly represents the student body and compares it humorously to the “Drunks of Radford” The editor responses by defending the Corps and attacking the picketers. He first states that the picketers made an active attempt to “humiliate” the audience for attending. He blames the picketers for trying to insight racial controversy through their picketing and that they could have attempted to reach their goal of a show cancellation through the academic council for evaluation since it was on the schedule for a long time. The editor says that VPI through “understanding and restraint” the students have reached peace with cultural differences since 1952 when the first black student was enrolled. He claims that VPI is the center for diversity and that any practice besides restraint and understanding could lead to a boilover. It is fascinating that a school with very little racial equality can see themselves as equal. It is so interesting to see someone defend a minstrel show and then claim that Virginia Tech was a peaceful place of equality. Another response to this letter is from a student who doesn’t understand the issue with the minstrel show and blackface. He essentially feels that the jokes have truth to them, but are exaggerated stereotypes which makes it funny and okay. He for some reason feels that until recently Black Americans would attend and be okay with these shows, but now in order to attract attention, everyone has an issue with them. His thought is that it is just a joke. Both of these editors show the racism that existed on Virginia Tech’s campus. While their justifications for the Minstrel Show are different both sides try to play the “it’s not racist” card but, both fail to see the show for what it is.

I also found the advertisements particularly interesting in this newspaper, three of them stood out specifically. The first was an ad for employment at IBM. I think this is super interesting because the people who responded to that advertisement could have potentially helped to create the computer as we know it today and it’s so interesting to think those people could have come from Tech. I also found the Army ROTC ad very interesting because while Vietnam is not mentioned like at all directly in this paper the ROTC ad shows that people knew they were going to war. This ad plays off people’s emotions and fear of the war by saying that they are good enough to be an officer don’t settle for an enlisted or drafted position that is for the uneducated less fortunate. 

Lastly, I found the ad for jobs in Europe interesting because it reminds me of our modern day study abroad except people go to work. Either way, it is another symbol of privilege on Virginia Tech’s campus and shows that people had money so that they could afford to go and work in Europe.  

  3 comments for “Virginia Tech in 1965 Kayla Mizelle

  1. John Agnew
    March 24, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    Thanks for this article. At age 18, a freshman, I attended the Corps Minstrel show. Everybody thought it was pretty funny and enjoyed it. It featured an outrageous courtroom scene with dandified blackface characters waving brief cases with the letters NAACP on them. It was “just entertainment” to us, guess. Seemingly I was not troubled that it characterized a whole race in most humiliating ways. I’m glad there were demonstrations in 1965. I was trying to find out when the LAST Corps Minstrel show was. Can you tell me?

  2. May 23, 2019 at 3:15 am

    It was a good thing

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