Author: Patricia Miller

editor of Encyclopedia Virginia
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The Economics of Slavery

Three new entries in EV shed light on some surprising aspects of the economics of slavery. Doug Sanford illuminates a little-understood aspect of slavery: the Hiring Out of the Enslaved. As he notes, “While less well-known than other facets of institutional slavery, hiring out of the enslaved was a common and long-standing arrangement throughout the […]

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How Washington Outflanked Smallpox

With full FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the Pentagon has announced that all active-duty troops will be required to receive the vaccine as soon as possible—a mandate to protect the health and readiness of the military that stretches back to the very first commander-in-chief, George Washington. His decision to inoculate the Continental Army against smallpox […]

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The Woman Who Refused to “Obey”

Sarah Harrison Blair offers a tantalizing glimpse of unlikely female agency in colonial Virginia. She was the daughter of wealthy Surry County tobacco planter, trader, and land speculator Benjamin Harrison II. By the time of Sarah’s birth in 1670, the Harrisons were already a political dynasty in the making. Her father served in the House of […]

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Juneteenth

As the nation and Virginia prepares to celebrate Juneteenth, our new entry by Lauranett Lee takes a look at how the poignant celebration of the belated emancipation of the Black residents of Galveston, Texas, became a nationwide holiday incorporating a number of Freedom Day traditions, including those celebrated in Virginia. And while Juneteenth lays claim to being […]

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Founding Fathers, Mothers, and Others

Warren G. Harding is credited with coining the term “Founding Fathers” to refer to the men who led the American Revolution and “dedicated a new republic to liberty and justice,” as he said in a 1916 speech to the Republican National Convention. There’s more than a little irony here. Harding was one of our least presidential […]

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An especially malevolent form of American entrepreneurship

“Slave trader.” It’s one of the most loathsome expressions in the English language. Even enslavers claimed to recoil at that designation in the era when slavery flourished. Andrew Jackson took umbrage at being called a “negro-trader” during the bitter presidential election of 1828, even though the slaves he bought and sold as a young man […]

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A Song by Any Other Name

What’s in a name? In the case of the now-retired state song of Virginia, a lot. The tale of the twisting, somewhat torturous history of “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” tells us a lot about Lost Cause mythology, half-hearted attempts to erase the stain of racism, and what true reconciliation requires. “Carry Me Back […]

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The Remarkable Journey of Elizabeth Keckly

Few stories in Encyclopedia Virginia are more dramatic than that of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly. Born into slavery in Dinwiddie Courthouse, in the Piedmont region of Virginia, during the presidency of James Monroe, by the time that Abraham Lincoln entered the White House in 1861, not only was Keckly a free woman, but she was also Washington, D.C.’s most […]

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Bernard Cohen and the Legacy of Loving

Bernard Cohen, one of the two lawyers who successfully took on one of the last laws underpinning legal segregation in the landmark Loving v. Virginia case, died on October 12 at the age of eighty-six. Brooklyn-born Cohen was practicing law in Alexandria in 1963 when he was asked to take the case of Richard and […]

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EV Election Edition

The air is crisp, and the first hints of color are showing in the Blue Ridge, which means that pumpkin spice lattes and the fifty-ninth U.S. presidential election must be around the corner. It’s easy to think that we live in uniquely unsettling political times. But a look at the past shows that the country […]

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