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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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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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“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 […]

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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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