“Not the Virginia Way.” (February 9, 1926)


In this article, published February 9, 1926, in the Richmond News Leader, its editor Douglas Southall Freeman argues that legally enforcing racial segregation in social life and marriage isn’t necessary when elites can continue to effectively uphold the racial hierarchy, in what he calls the “Virginia way.” He is particularly concerned about the challenge the proposed racial integrity laws pose to Virginia’s seminaries’ ability to recruit students from China and Japan, who would be classified as “non-white.” He also argues legalizing segregation would draw attention to the incongruity between the Christian values that missionaries from Virginia are evangelizing abroad and the racism shaping their home state.


Virginia colleges naturally are disturbed over the effect of the racial integrity and racial segregation bills on their foreign students. The churches that do extensive mission work in the Orient also are concerned. For if these bills pass, one of them will classify Chinese and Japanese students as “non-white” or “colored,” and the other will make it mandatory to provide separate classroom facilities and different dining-hall tables for those who have come from the East to study in Virginia. The Union Theological Seminary, the University of Richmond and doubtless other institutions would be immediately affected. The colleges would not ask these students to accept segregation. The students themselves would not consider it. The education of Chinese and Japanese in the colleges of Virginia simply would come to an end. But word of the discrimination would, of course, be carried forthwith to the Orient, and every one of the Virginia missionaries—they number several scores—would be handicapped in his work because, sooner or later, he would be told that though he came to preach brotherhood and entered gratefully into the social life of the people to whom he ministered, yet in his own state he put Christian converts in separate groups and would not eat or sit with them.

All this illustrates the great complexity of the situation sought to be protected by the bills in question. Beyond the broad fundamentals of no intermarriage, the separation of the races is not to be assured by sweeping statutes, but by sound public sentiment. Before either of these bills could be passed with safety, both would have to be amended in so much detail that the exceptions would outweigh the mandate. Even then there is the gravest sort of doubt as to whether the object sought by the advocates of these measures will not be defeated by legislation. Virginia has her racial sore spots that call for treatment—careful, intelligent and in some instances, drastic treatment—but on the whole she has attained very satisfactory results by avoiding needless racial law-making, and by applying her own methods of adjustment in her own way. That Virginia way is not one of contention, but of understanding, not the making of humiliating laws, but the establishment of just, acceptable usage. Public sentiment can be trusted now, as always, to find the best “Virginia way.”

APA Citation:
Leader, Richmond News. “Not the Virginia Way.” (February 9, 1926). (2021, December 09). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Leader, Richmond News. "“Not the Virginia Way.” (February 9, 1926)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (09 Dec. 2021). Web. 20 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2023, September 11
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