In my everlasting search for materials relating to African Americans in Special Collections, I was pointed to the 1921 edition of the Colonial Echo. Within its worn cover, there is a single page spread entitled “The Dark Side of College Life.” These are the only words. The rest of the page is filled with several black and white photographs of exactly what one might expect – black employees of the College. Their identities are unknown as the editors of the Colonial Echo did not choose to include the individuals’ names. It seemed to me that this ‘exploration’ of this so-called dark side was a little lacking.
If you’re a senior at the College, you may know the Colonial Echo through their emails reminding you to get your portrait taken. If you’re an underclassman, perhaps you’ve seen the Colonial Echo up for grabs around campus at the end of the Spring semester. For those still unfamiliar, the Colonial Echo is William & Mary’s student yearbook; it’s a record of the events throughout the year and the students who matriculated. The Colonial Echo was first published in 1899, and has been published every year since then except for 1900 and 1904. That means there have been over 100 editions of the yearbook, and Special Collections has a copy (or multiples) of every edition. While physical copies are available, you don’t have to actually come into Special Collections to view the Colonial Echo – the 1899-1995 yearbooks have been digitized. To give you a glimpse into W&M’s history, we pulled the 1917 Colonial Echo. Exactly 100 years from the current academic year, this yearbook is a great example of what has – and has not – changed on campus since its publication.
This image of female students of the K.O.B. ribbon society surrounding the Botetourt Statue appeared in the 1931 Colonial Echo yearbook. Shortly after William & Mary became a co-ed in 1918, “a certain group of girls who found each other’s company congenial, decided to form a ribbon society.” As a precursor to the current sorority system, selected William & Mary female students formed the G.G.G. club and others the K.O.B. club. K.O.B. members “wore a yellow ribbon on their wrists once each month and on special occasions” as a mark of their membership in the ribbon society.
The College of William & Mary’s Flat Hat was usually published each Friday during the academic year. On November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was shot, the paper (printed just prior to that date) covered the election of twenty-one students to the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, a proposed $5 social fee, the opening of bidding for the construction of Swem Library, the upcoming basketball season and the candidacy of Barry Goldwater for the Republican nomination for president.