John Fox Jr. was one of Virginia’s best-selling writers in the first decade of the twentieth century. He chronicled in popular fiction the customs and characters of southern Appalachia and produced two of the first million-selling novels in the United States. Though he enjoyed enormous commercial success, especially with The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1903) and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908), today Fox is regarded as a fairly sentimental practitioner of the local-color genre, a style of writing that foregrounds place and regionalism. Still, he is fondly celebrated by the southwestern Virginia town Big Stone Gap, where he resided much of his life. The Kentucky-born, Harvard-educated Fox embodied a contrast that he often explored in his novels: the insular culture of Appalachia set against a more sophisticated outside world.
Author: Aaron Davis
Life Last Words and Dying Speech of Stephen Smith by Stephen Smith (1797)
In Life, Last Words and Dying Speech of Stephen Smith, a broadside created in Boston in 1797, Stephen Smith—about to be executed for the crime of aggravated burglary—tells the story of his years enslaved in Virginia and his escape to freedom.
“The Banditti,” Richmond Enquirer (September 20, 1831)
In “The Banditti,” published in the Richmond Enquirer on September 20, 1831, the paper publishes excerpts from North Carolina newspaper reports on the impact of Nat Turner’s revolt locally.
Letter from Judah P. Benjamin to Robert E. Lee (February 11, 1865)
In this letter to the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, dated February 11, 1865, Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin seeks support for the policy of enlisting African American soldiers.
Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser (September 28, 1791)
In this excerpt of Richmond news, published on page 3 of the city’s Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser, on September 28, 1791, the editors take note of Robert Carter III‘s Deed of Gift and two plays set to open.
“A Dastardly Crime,” Staunton Spectator and Vindicator (July 14, 1898)
In “A Dastardly Crime,” published on July 14, 1898, the Staunton Spectator and Vindicator reports on the recent lynching in Charlottesville of John Henry James, an African American man accused of assaulting a white woman.
“Autobiography of Henry Parker” by Henry Parker (ca. 1860s)
In the “Autobiography of Henry Parker,” written sometime in the 1860s, Henry Parker describes his life as an enslaved man in western Virginia and his escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad. The following text contains racial epithets.
Constitution of the Union Burial Ground Society (January 23, 1848)
In its constitution, dated January 23, 1848, the Union Burial Ground Society sets out its bylaws. The group was formed by free blacks in Richmond to establish a cemetery.
“Death of Gilbert Hunt,” Richmond Daily Dispatch (April 27, 1863)
In the “Death of Gilbert Hunt,” published on April 27, 1863, the Richmond Daily Dispatch reports on the death, the day before, of the African American blacksmith Gilbert Hunt.
Letter from Anne McCarty Lee to William B. Lewis (March 11, 1837)
In this letter, dated March 11, 1837, Anne Robinson McCarty Lee writes to William B. Lewis requesting his help after the death of her husband, Henry Lee IV.
“Washington’s Runaway Slave,” The Liberator (August 22, 1845)
In “Washington’s Runaway Slave,” published in the abolitionist newspaper the Liberator of Boston on August 22, 1845, the Reverend T. H. Adams interviews Oney Judge, who ran away from the household of President George Washington in 1796. The story originally appeared in the Granite Freeman of Concord, New Hampshire, on May 22, 1845.
An Act further declaring what shall be deemed unlawful meetings of slaves (January 24, 1804)
In this act, passed on January 24, 1804, the General Assembly clarifies what meetings of enslaved African Americans are considered unlawful.
An ACT providing for the voluntary enslavement of the free negroes of the commonwealth (February 18, 1856)
With this act, passed on February 18, 1856, the General Assembly allows free blacks to enslave themselves to a master of their choosing.
“From an Eye Witness,” Charlottesville Daily Progress (July 16, 1898)
In “From an Eye Witness,” published in the Charlottesville Daily Progress on July 16, 1898, the editor of the Waynesboro Herald describes the lynching four days earlier of John Henry James, an African American man.
An ACT for the Voluntary Enslavement of Free Negroes, without compensation to the Commonwealth (March 28, 1861)
In this act, passed on March 28, 1861, the General Assembly revises its law allowing free blacks to voluntary enslave themselves to a master of their choosing.
Charlotte Resolves (February 4, 1833)
In what came to be known as the Charlotte Resolves, delivered to and approved by a gathering of men at Charlotte Court House on February 4, 1833, these eleven resolves assert Virginia’s sovereignty and the corruption of President Andrew Jackson’s administration. Presented by John Randolph of Roanoke, they were written by Randolph’s half-brother, Beverley Tucker.
“The Danville Massacre,” Chicago Tribune (February 16, 1884)
In “The Danville Massacre,” published on February 16, 1884, the Chicago Tribune reports on U.S. Senate hearings into the so-called Danville Riot, which took place on November 3, 1883, and left at least five people dead.
“Faithful Janitor Dead at 89,” Charlottesville Daily Progress (October 6, 1915)
In this article, published on October 6, 1915, Charlottesville’s Daily Progress reports on the death of Henry Martin, the head janitor and bell-ringer at the University of Virginia.
“Mob Law.” Staunton Spectator and Vindicator (July 21, 1898)
In “Mob Law,” published on July 21, 1898, the Staunton Spectator and Vindicator argues that the recent lynching in Charlottesville of John Henry James, an African American man accused of assaulting a white woman, was not a dangerous form of mob rule.
Life, including His Escape and Struggle for Liberty of Charles A. Garlick by Charles A. Garlick (1902)
In Life, including His Escape and Struggle for Liberty of Charles A. Garlick, published in 1902, Charles A. Garlick tells of his life enslaved in western Virginia, his escape north via the Underground Railroad, his brief enrollment in Oberlin College, and his enlistment during the American Civil War (1861–1865). The following text contains racial epithets.
“A Colored Hero,” Richmond Daily Dispatch (November 30, 1858)
In “A Colored Hero,” published on November 30, 1858, the Richmond Daily Dispatch profiles the African American blacksmith Gilbert Hunt.
“He Paid an Awful Penalty,” Charlottesville Daily Progress (July 12, 1898)
On July 12, 1898, in “He Paid an Awful Penalty,” the Charlottesville Daily Progress described the lynching of John Henry James, an African American man.
An act ascertaining the place for erecting the College of William and Mary in Virginia (February 8, 1693)
This act, passed on February 8, 1693, establishes the future location of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.
Thomas Fuller Obituary, Columbian Centinel (December 29, 1790)
In this obituary, published on December 29, 1790, the Columbian Centinel of Boston describes the life and mathematical feats of Thomas Fuller, an enslaved man who lived near Alexandria.
“A Slave of George Washington!” by Benjamin Chase, The Liberator (January 1, 1847)
In “A Slave of George Washington!,” published in William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper the Liberator on January 1, 1847, Benjamin Chase interviews Oney Judge, who ran away from the household of President George Washington in 1796.
Williams, Narrative of Isaac (1856)
Isaac Williams, a formerly enslaved man, tells the story of his life in slavery in Virginia, his many attempts to escape, and his eventual journey to freedom in Canada, where his story was recorded in The Refugee, or, The narratives of fugitive slaves in Canada.
“Another Virginia Lynching,” Richmond Planet (July 16, 1898)
In “Another Virginia Lynching,” published on July 16, 1898, the Richmond Planet reports on the lynching of John Henry James, an African American man accused of assaulting a white woman, Julia Hotopp.
Letter from Thomas R. Joynes to Levin S. Joynes (December 27, 1811)
In a letter to his brother, Levin S. Joynes, dated December 27, 1811, Thomas R. Joynes, a delegate from Accomack County, describes his experience in the Richmond Theatre fire the day before. The fire killed more than seventy men, women, and children.
Johnston, Memoranda of Conversations with General Robert E. Lee by William Preston (1868, 1870)
In these memoranda, dated in 1868 and 1870, William Preston Johnston recalls two conversations with Robert E. Lee, then president of Washington College, in Lexington. Johnston, the son of the Confederate general Albert Sydney Johnston, was a Confederate veteran and a member of the faculty. Johnston went on to serve as president of Louisiana State University and was the first president of Tulane University.