Author: Patricia Miller

editor of Encyclopedia Virginia
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Support Encyclopedia Virginia

We’re trying something new at Encyclopedia Virginia and invite you to participate. EV’s mission is to provide a free, reliable multimedia resource that tells the inclusive story of Virginia for those who seek to understand how the past informs the present and future. While we’ve been fortunate and grateful to receive financial support from a […]

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Who Controls the Past: The Virginia History and Textbook Commission

Our new entry on the Virginia History and Textbook Commission explores another facet of the Commonwealth’s mid-twentieth century effort to hold back the hands of time in a country that was moving toward desegregation. Like the Massive Resistance campaign that shut down public schools in some Virginia communities rather than comply with the Brown v. […]

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Supreme Opinion

With a number of high-profile Supreme Court cases in the news, we take a look at the groundbreaking Virginia-based cases that have made their way to the nation’s highest court. Many of these cases dealt with issues of race and segregation in the Commonwealth, as well as with issues of reproductive coercion and freedom to […]

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The Election of 1840 and the Long Arc of Women’s Political Participation

Our newest entry is a biography of Virginia-born William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States. One might think there isn’t much to say about Harrison, given that he still holds the distinction of being the shortest-serving U.S. president, dying in office thirty-one days after his inauguration.  But Harrison’s military career covered the […]

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The Great Dismal Swamp: A Mythical Place of Enslaved Resistance and Rebellion

The Great Dismal Swamp straddles many lines—the border between Virginia and North Carolina, the boundary between land and water, and the space between past and present. It exists today as one of the most ecologically sensitive and important areas on the East Coast, a natural carbon sink that plays a critical role in carbon sequestration, […]

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Virginia Luxuries and Moral Impossibilities

Few things in the entirety of the ugly history of slavery in the United States were more reliably memory-holed than the widespread, persistent sexual exploitation of enslaved people. The painting entitled “Virginian Luxuries” that leads our new entry on the Sexual Exploitation of the Enslaved was painted around 1825 in New England, so the predacious nature […]

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Making Invisible Women Visible

Encyclopedia Virginia in conjunction with our partners at The Library of Virginia’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography is pleased to publish a biography of Janie Aurora Porter Barrett, a pathbreaking educator and social reformer who exemplifies Black women’s contributions to the Commonwealth in the Progressive Era. And we’re equally thrilled that Barrett’s biography was contributed by […]

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The Surprising Legal Career of Jane Webb

Jane Webb was a woman of mixed race—her mother was a white indentured servant and her father was an enslaved Black man—who grew up in Northampton County on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the late 1600s. Because her mother was free and the General Assembly had decreed that the status of the child followed […]

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Cox’s Snow and the Persistence of Weather Memory

What tales will people tell about the Great I-95 Snowstorm of ’22? About the time an untold number of people, including a U.S. senator, spent a frigid, worrisome twenty-four hours on the interstate somewhere between Ruther Glen in Caroline County and Exit 152/Dumfries in Prince William County after a tractor-trailer accident in an unexpectedly heavy […]

PRIMARY DOCUMENT

“Third report of a committee of the representatives of New York Yearly Meeting of Friends: upon the condition and wants of the colored refugees.” (May 1864)

In this report, dated May 1864, the Committee on Colored Refugees, who were representatives of the New York Yearly Meeting of Friends, gives its assessment of the needs of the formerly enslaved people escaping behind Union lines and how Quaker charity efforts were meeting them in contraband camps across Virginia, including Alexandria. One of their agents, Harriet Jacobs, wrote her own letter documenting what she saw in Alexandria and Washington, D.C. For Quakers, the abolition of slavery was a moral and religious imperative.

PRIMARY DOCUMENT

Letter from Sarah Stewart to Dolley Payne Todd Madison (July 5, 1844)

In this letter, dated July 5, 1884, Sarah Stewart, an enslaved domestic at Montpelier, writes to her enslaver, Dolley Madison, reporting that the Orange County sheriff had seized many of the people enslaved by the Madisons to pay their debts. Stewart implores Madison to ask her neighbors to purchase those enslaved people who had been seized to prevent their being permanently separated from their families by slave traders taking part in the domestic slave trade. Ultimately, the enslaved community at Montpelier was largely broken up because of Madison’s financial difficulty.