University of Texas’s Racial Geography Tour: A Review

January 20, 2021

In the process of reconciling the history of institutional racism, colleges and universities have turned to race-cognizant tours to acknowledge a more truthful and complete narrative of their past and to educate campus stakeholders. Whether the Black and Blue tour at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or the Hallowed Grounds tour at the University of Alabama, these alternate campus tours have been instrumental in rendering visible previously invisible histories embedded in the built landscape but not covered in official public narratives. These tours have shifted how campus visitors and stakeholders engage with the institutional history and built landscape, and in turn, have played a significant role in the ongoing process of reconciliation and repair.

A recent addition, the virtual Racial Geography Tour, explores the complex history of race and gender at the University of Texas’s flagship campus. Developed and narrated by Dr. Edmund Gordon, associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Vice Provost for Diversity, the interactive tour reveals “how ideas of race and gender are sedimented in the architecture, landscape, and layout of the campus.” The tour also highlights the role of protest and student activism in shaping the process of revision and reimagination embodied in present-day design aesthetics, institutional values, and campus demographics. The past and present remain in constant dialogue through the video narration at each tour stop, and through the supplementary materials tucked into the information panel. This virtual tool is an effective digital humanities teaching tool for understanding race, gender, and campus history in an interactive, multidisciplinary, and multi-dimensional experience.

Simply organized, the site is easy for users to navigate. The “Introduction” tab is a crucial first step in shaping the user experience. Located in the top right corner of the main landing page, a pop-up window opens, allowing users to watch a short video that lays out the guiding principles of the project. Below the video is a brief explanation of how to access interpretive essays , historical photographs, multimedia, and other supplementary materials once users begin the tour. This page also includes links to a bibliography and acknowledgements for the project.

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