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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 […]

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The Cotton Gin of the Midwest

Many are familiar with the legacy of the cotton gin, the first machine to separate cotton seeds from cotton fiber, patented by Ely Whitney in 1794. The cotton gin made the widespread cultivation of short-staple cotton profitable just as the removal of Indians from vast swaths of the southeast opened up new farming territory for […]

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The Missed Opportunity of the Emancipation Monument

Our new entry on Archer Alexander, the formerly enslaved man who served as the model for the Emancipation Monument dedicated on the eleventh anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, touches on the controversy the monument generated, both when it was dedicated in 1876 and more recently when a replica of the monument was removed from […]

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Liberty is Sweet: A Conversation with Woody Holton

Encyclopedia Virginia is thrilled to welcome Woody Holton for a virtual conversation about his much-anticipated new book Liberty is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution on Friday, October 29, at 12 PM. In this sweeping reassessment of the American Revolution, Holton shows how the founders were influenced by overlooked Americans—women, Native Americans, African Americans, and religious […]

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Emancipation and Freedom Monument

On September 22, the Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission unveiled the latest addition to Virginia’s commemorative landscape: the Emancipation and Freedom Monument on Brown’s Island in Richmond. The monument, which features two bronze statues representing a man and a woman and an infant newly freed from slavery, is dedicated to the contributions of […]

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