Author: Caitlin Newman

associate editor of Encyclopedia Virginia
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“Like Reaching for the Moon”

Before Greta Thunberg, before Emma González, before Malala Yousafzai, there was Barbara Johns. 

Johns kickstarted America’s student-led movement for civil rights in education in 1951, when she launched a walkout of her fellow students at the all-Black Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville. She was sixteen at the time. She planned the walkout to secure a safer, newer, more equitable facility for her classmates. Read more about: “Like Reaching for the Moon”

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Guest Post: Help Unearth the Secrets of Mary Richards Bowser

We’ve just published our entry on Mary Richards Bowser. Born into slavery, Bowser played an important role in the pro-Union spy ring that Elizabeth Van Lew ran in Richmond during the American Civil War. Lois Leveen, the author of the entry, has unearthed a tremendous amount of new information on Bowser—but it is likely that more documents related to Mary Richards Bowser are yet to be discovered by historians. Read more about: Guest Post: Help Unearth the Secrets of Mary Richards Bowser

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This Week at EV

IMAGE: Jason E. Powell, Looking Into the Past: Loudoun County Courthouse, Leesburg, VA
It’s been a busy week here at Encyclopedia Virginia: we’re working on a terrific project that will make our site even more classroom-friendly. As we wind down for the weekend, check out our favorite links from this week:

This Washington Post article focuses on vintage photography websites, such as Shorpy, HistoryPin, and My Daguerreotype Boyfriend. Read more about: This Week at EV

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This Week at EV

There were plenty of great links to explore on the web this week; here are a few that caught our eye:

Why is there no modern edition of Robert E. Lee’s papers? Glenn W. LaFantasie discusses the Lees’ hold on the family papers in “The Confederate We Still Don’t Know.”
If you’re in need of a fresh Friday Read, look no further than the American Historical Association blog’s crowd-sourced list of great history books. Read more about: This Week at EV

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This Week at EV

Friday afternoon is here, and with it, EV’s weekly wrap-up. As you make your weekend plans, take a look at our favorite links from around the web this week:

Is news coverage of the debt crisis giving you a headache? Yeah, me, too. But in this podcast, our friends at BackStory offer a clear, concise, and even funny history of the national debt (which Alexander Hamilton called “a national blessing”). Read more about: This Week at EV

ENTRY

Witchcraft in Colonial Virginia

Witchcraft was a genuine concern for colonial Virginians. The colony’s English settlers brought with them a strong belief in the devil’s power and his presence in the New World. This belief was first manifested in the Jamestown colonists’ early perceptions of the Virginia Indians, whom they believed to be devil worshippers. After 1622, some colonists began to accuse one another of practicing witchcraft. Though witchcraft cases in Virginia were less common and the sentences less severe than the more famous witch trials of Salem, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, evidence exists that about two dozen such trials took place in Virginia between 1626 and 1730. They ranged from civil defamation suits to criminal accusations. The most famous of these was the trial of Grace Sherwood of Princess Anne County, in which the judges determined her guilt by administering a water test. Records indicate that the last witchcraft trial in the mainland colonies took place in Virginia in 1730; five years later, Parliament repealed the Witchcraft Act of 1604, the statute under which British American colonists prosecuted accused witches. Since then, witchcraft has been largely forgotten as an aspect of life in colonial Virginia.