The Challenges of Getting the Past Right

We at Encyclopedia Virginia value accuracy and getting it right when it comes to telling the story of Virginia’s history and culture. Since we went online in 2008, we have continually refined our processes to ensure that we’re getting it right—or at least as right as is possible for a staff of fallible humans.  Read more about: The Challenges of Getting the Past Right


Remembering the Father of Black History

As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s a good time to remember Carter G. Woodson, who is known as the Father of Black history and who in 1926 created the forerunner of Black History Month—Negro History Week.

At the time, the idea that African Americans might have a history worth preserving and studying was radical. Read more about: Remembering the Father of Black History


A “Special Meeting Place” Focuses on Indigenous History

As amazing as it seems for an area that was once home to numerous Native tribes that were part of Tsenacomoco, the Powhatan paramount chiefdom that stretched from the James to the Potomac rivers and west to the fall line, a new Virginia state park in the region is the first to honor Indigenous history in the Commonwealth. Read more about: A “Special Meeting Place” Focuses on Indigenous History


Witches of Virginia

Chances are if you’re thinking about witches this Halloween when a shadow scuttles across the moon or a black cat crosses your path, you’re picturing a woman accused of casting spells or associating with the Devil in the frosty woods of New England. The accused witches of Salem, in what was then the Province of Massachusettes Bay, are the country’s most famous purported practitioners of the dark arts, but Virginia had its own experiences with witchcraft trials. Read more about: Witches of Virginia


Support Encyclopedia Virginia

Encyclopedia Virginia’s September fundraising campaign is underway to raise $10,000 to support free, public access to Virginia history.

While we’ve been fortunate and grateful to receive financial support from a variety of sources throughout our history, projects like ours thrive with reader support. When readers contribute, we can create nuanced, relevant content that helps students, journalists, educators, and everyday citizens understand Virginia’s history and culture. Read more about: Support Encyclopedia Virginia


The “Racial Brain” Collector and the Dark History of Eugenics

A recent Washington Post investigation revealed the extent of the “racial brain collection” amassed by Ales Hrdlicka, the curator of the division of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian’s United States National Museum, which was a forerunner of the National Museum of Natural History.

Hrdlicka was primarily responsible for gathering some 250 human brains in the early decades of the twentieth century from a network of scientists, physicians, and professors, all in service of proving the biological superiority of white people. Read more about: The “Racial Brain” Collector and the Dark History of Eugenics


The Myth of “Living Off the Land” at Jamestown

In a recent Washington Post article about the Artemis project, which aims to establish a long-term human presence on the South Pole of the Moon, NASA’s Prasun Desai likened the astronauts to “the settlers who came to Jamestown” and “lived off the land.” 

While it’s tempting to think of Jamestown as a proto-Artemis full of intrepid settlers, that was far from the reality, as our entry on the Early Jamestown Settlement makes clear. Read more about: The Myth of “Living Off the Land” at Jamestown


Honoring Black Spaces for Juneteenth

In recognition of Juneteenth, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund announced $3.8 million in new grants to preserve forty African American history sites, including four in Virginia, that reflect Black activism, achievement, and resilience to tell a more complete American story.

The Cape Charles Rosenwald School, constructed in 1929, is a rare example of a brick, four-teacher Rosenwald school. Read more about: Honoring Black Spaces for Juneteenth


Getting the Past “Right”

The efforts of Colonial Williamsburg to, in the words of the New York Times, get the past “right” continue to make news. As we noted recently in the EV Blog, Colonial Williamsburg moved the building that housed the Bray School for enslaved and free Black children to a more prominent location in an effort to center the stories of the non-white people who contributed to the colonial community.  Read more about: Getting the Past “Right”