Category: Twenty-first Century History (2001– )

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Democratic Party of Virginia

The Democratic Party, the dominant political party in Virginia from the 1880s to the 1960s, can trace its origins to the early years of the republic, when disputes over domestic and foreign policies gave birth to the Republican (Democratic-Republican) and Federalist parties. In the 1830s, while Andrew Jackson was president, the name “Democratic” began to gain currency among his supporters. Opposition to Jackson’s policies resulted in the formation of a party known as the Whigs. Two-party competition continued in the Old Dominion until the eve of the American Civil War (1861–1865). During Reconstruction (1865–1877), Congress mandated the enfranchisement of black males. Former Democrats and Whigs established the Conservative Party. After Reconstruction, the Conservatives triumphed, but soon they lost power to an interracial coalition known as the Readjusters. In 1883 the Conservative Party changed its name to the Democratic Party. They regained control of the General Assembly that same year, and the governorship two years later. Their control solidified by the suffrage provisions of the Virginia Constitution of 1902, the Democrats were immune to challenge in statewide elections for decades—the only meaningful competition was in the Democratic primary. Early in the twentieth century, party leader Thomas S. Martin and later Harry F. Byrd Sr. developed political organizations based on the support of local officials across the state, but by the 1960s the Byrd Organization was in decline: changes in federal civil rights laws, federal court decisions, the arrival of many newcomers in the state, the rise of the modern Republican Party, and the passing of the old generation of Democratic leaders initiated a party realignment. In the 1970s Virginia’s political parties were philosophically more in tune with their respective national parties. Since then, two-party competition has characterized Virginia politics. Virginia Democrats made history by electing an African American as governor in 1989 and giving the state’s electoral vote to Barack Obama, the first African American to be the candidate of a major party for president, in 2008.

PRIMARY DOCUMENT

House Joint Resolution No. 607 (2001)

In February 2001, the Virginia General Assembly denounced “the now-discredited pseudo-science of eugenics” and expressed “profound regret” for the “incalculable human damage” that the state’s eugenics program had done.

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Indians in Virginia

Indians have lived in the area now known as Virginia for thousands of years. Their histories, ancestral connections, and traditions are intertwined with the 6,000 square miles of Tidewater land the Algonquian-speaking Indians of Virginia called Tsenacomoco. The early inhabitants of Virginia were hunter-gatherers who followed the migratory patterns of animals. Over time, and as the region warmed, they settled into towns along riverbanks and outlined their homelands, developing intimate, balanced relationships with the animals, plants, and geographic formations. They hunted, fished, and farmed, and developed complex social and religious systems and vast trade networks. By the early 1600s, Virginia Indians lived in three broad cultural groups based on the language families found in the area: Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Siouan. Scholars know most about the Algonquian-speaking Indians of Tsenacomoco, who eventually grouped together into a paramount chiefdom. Led by Powhatan, the polity ultimately included twenty-eight to thirty-two small chiefdoms and tribes, stretching from the James to the Potomac rivers and encompassing much of Virginia’s coastal plain. In 1607, Englishmen arrived and changed Indian life forever. In the midst of a severe drought, the colonists’ demands for food and their inability to fully understand Indian cultural practices led in part to three protracted and violent conflicts over four decades, ending in 1646 with the Algonquian-speaking Indians largely subject to English rule. The General Assembly set aside land for the former tribes of Tsenacomoco, although in subsequent years some Indians were forced to move and some groups became dispersed. In the years that followed, they contributed to the developing American culture while working to maintain their own traditions during difficult periods of disease, hunger, forced relocations, and restrictive colonial and later statewide policies that curtailed their rights to travel unmolested through lands now occupied by settlers, to visit their traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and to testify in court on their own behalf. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a cultural renaissance bloomed and some scholars began to study Indian history more closely. At the same time, the General Assembly did much to deny Indian identity, including passing in 1924 the Act to Preserve Racial Integrity, which criminalized interracial marriage and separated Virginians into two simplified racial categories: white and colored. These wrongs were addressed in part by the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia (1967) and by state legislation in the late 1980s that allowed Virginia Indians to change the racial designation on their birth certificates without cost. Virginia Indians in the twenty-first century actively cultivate their own culture while educating others about their history.

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Menokin

Menokin, located in Richmond County, was the home of Francis Lightfoot Lee and his wife, Rebecca Tayloe Lee. Constructed from 1769 to 1771, the home sat on a 1,000-acre plantation and was a wedding gift from Rebecca Lee’s father, John Tayloe II. The designer is unknown but may have been the English craftsman William Buckland, who also worked on George Mason‘s Gunston Hall. The Lees lived at Menokin on and off until their deaths in 1797, and two years later the house was inherited by John Tayloe III, who owned it until 1823. The property changed hands a number of times before falling into disrepair and being abandoned by the mid-twentieth century. In the 1960s, the Omohundro family, which inherited Menokin in 1935, removed the interior paneling and woodwork to protect it from damage; in 1995, T. Edgar Omohundro deeded the property to the Menokin Foundation. Beginning in 1985, archaeological investigations evaluated the site and dated its occupation back to the Rappahannock Indians, who lived and hunted there prior to the arrival of the English. In the early twenty-first century, the Menokin Foundation opened a visitors center and began plans to preserve the site by replacing the missing walls and roof with glass and steel.

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Mount Vernon, Archaeology at

Archaeology at Mount Vernon, the Fairfax County plantation home of George Washington, began in the 1930s and has continued over the subsequent decades. As part of research and renovation efforts undertaken by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, excavations have sought to uncover evidence of daily life on the property during the eighteenth century. In 1987, the association, which has owned and operated the estate since 1860, hired a full-time archaeologist. Since then, archaeological digs at the Mansion House Farm have taken place at the main slave quarter, known as the House for Families, and the blacksmith shop (1987–1990), the fruit garden and nursery (1988–1991), the South Grove trash dump, or midden (1990–1993), the dung repository (1992–1994), and the Upper Garden (2005–2010). Extensive work has also been conducted at the distillery, located near the outlying gristmill (1999–2005). These investigations have turned up a rich array of artifacts and other kinds of evidence attesting to the lives of the Washington family and their enslaved laborers, including the size and nature of structures in which they lived and worked, the tools they manufactured and used, and the foods they ate.

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National D-Day Memorial

The National D-Day Memorial is a congressionally approved national war memorial in Bedford, Virginia, honoring the American GIs who participated in the invasion of France at Normandy on June 6, 1944, during World War II (1939–1945). Dedicated on June 6, 2001, by United States president George W. Bush and receiving as many as 100,000 visitors per year, the memorial is remarkable for its stone arch that rises nearly forty-five feet in the air. The structure’s six components correspond, often in directly representational ways, to the planning and execution of Operation Overlord, the largest invasion in history. Conceived by Roanoke native and D-Day veteran J. Robert “Bob” Slaughter, the memorial is located in Bedford partly for symbolic reasons: the Virginia town lost nineteen of its men engaged that day, all members of Company A, 29th Infantry Division, possibly the largest per capita loss of any town in America on that day. (Four more Bedford soldiers died later in the campaign.) Although Slaughter had originally envisioned something modest, the project turned into a $25 million colossus that resulted in the memorial foundation’s bankruptcy in 2002 and two federal fraud indictments against its executive director, Richard B. Burrow. Two trials ended in hung juries, and charges against Burrow were dismissed in October 2004.

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Pentagon, The

The Pentagon, located in Arlington, Virginia, is home to the Department of Defense and serves as military headquarters for the United States. The enormous, 6.24-million-square-foot concrete structure is the largest office building in the world, covering thirty-four acres. Built to house the burgeoning War Department on the eve of the United States’ entry into World War II (1939–1945), the headquarters was constructed in just seventeen months. From the moment Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall moved into the building in November 1942, the Pentagon has served as the focal point of American military planning and operations. Vital decisions regarding the D-Day invasion of Europe and the development of the atomic bomb were made at the Pentagon during World War II. In subsequent years the Pentagon has been the setting for many more critical decisions, from the Cold War and the Vietnam War (1961–1975) to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On September 11, 2001, terrorists flew a hijacked passenger jet into the Pentagon, killing 184 people and seriously damaging the building but not shutting it down. With its iconic, five-sided shape, the Pentagon is one of the world’s most recognizable buildings and it has come to serve as a symbol of American military strength.

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Republican Party of Virginia

The Republican Party is one of two major political parties in Virginia. Although founded in 1854 in opposition to the spread of slavery, the party did not take hold in Virginia until after the American Civil War (1861–1865). Even then, for nearly a century the Republicans were an ineffectual, minority party with only pockets of regional strength. During this period, the conservative Democratic Party dominated politics in Virginia and the rest of the South. After World War II (1939–1945), economic growth, demographic trends, electoral reforms, and policy debates combined to spur a realignment that gradually brought the Virginia parties into line philosophically with their national counterparts. As the center-right party in a conservative-leaning state, the Virginia Republican Party became consistently competitive. Following the mid-1970s, Virginia politics settled into a pattern characterized by active competition between the two major party organizations and their candidates. Partisan fortunes ebbed and flowed, but neither party established durable majority support on a statewide basis. In the twenty-first century Republican candidates in Virginia routinely compete with their Democratic rivals for the support of nonaligned voters (generally called “independents”) in addition to mobilizing fellow partisans.

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Slavery at the College of William and Mary

The College of William and Mary utilized the labor of enslaved African Americans from the earliest days of its construction, in 1695, until the beginning of the American Civil War (1861–1865), when the school suspended classes. Enslaved laborers built the college’s main building, the Brafferton, and the President’s House, and later performed the duties of taking care of the school, its professors, and its students. Besides those it directly enslaved, the college depended on the forced labor of those being hired out from other owners. Although documentation of their lives is scarce, it’s clear they kept student rooms and classrooms clean, served meals, shined shoes, rang the bell, ran errands, cut wood,performed maintenance and repairs, and gardened. Enslaved people were subject to often harsh discipline and abuse by faculty, staff, and students, who often viewed them as lazy, incompetent, and inferior to whites. During the American Revolution (1775–1783), many slaves were sold when the college’s finances became precarious. From about 1760 into the early Federalist period, intellectual skepticism about slavery was strong, but by the middle of the nineteenth century, a proslavery ideology had taken hold and was promulgated. In 2009, the College of William and Mary established the Lemon Project, charged with documenting the institution’s complicity in slavery and its aftereffects. The college officially apologized for that complicity in 2018.

PRIMARY DOCUMENT

U.S. Senate Resolution 39 (June 13, 2005)

In U.S. Senate Resolution 39, introduced on February 7, 2005, and approved six days later, the Senate apologizes for not responding to the epidemic of lynching in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The resolution's co-sponsors included Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, and George Allen, a Republican from Virginia.

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