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Black History

1619
The first African slaves arrive in Virginia.
1746
Lucy Terry, an enslaved person in 1746, becomes the earliest known black American poet when she writes about the last American Indian attack on her village of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Her poem, Bar's Fight, is not published until 1855.
1773
Phillis Wheatley's book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral is published, making her the first African American to do so.
1787
Slavery is made illegal in the Northwest Territory. The U.S Constitution states that Congress may not ban the slave trade until 1808.
1793
Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin greatly increases the demand for slave labor.
1793
A federal fugitive slave law is enacted, providing for the return slaves who had escaped and crossed state lines.
1800
Gabriel Prosser, an enslaved African-American blacksmith, organizes a slave revolt intending to march on Richmond, Virginia. The conspiracy is uncovered, and Prosser and a number of the rebels are hanged. Virginia's slave laws are consequently tightened.
1808
Congress bans the importation of slaves from Africa.
1820
The Missouri Compromise bans slavery north of the southern boundary of Missouri.
1822
Denmark Vesey, an enslaved African-American carpenter who had purchased his freedom, plans a slave revolt with the intent to lay siege on Charleston, South Carolina. The plot is discovered, and Vesey and 34 coconspirators are hanged.
1831
Nat Turner, an enslaved African-American preacher, leads the most significant slave uprising in American history. He and his band of followers launch a short, bloody, rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. The militia quells the rebellion, and Turner is eventually hanged. As a consequence, Virginia institutes much stricter slave laws.
William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing the Liberator, a weekly paper that advocates the complete abolition of slavery. He becomes one of the most famous figures in the abolitionist movement.
1846
The Wilmot Proviso, introduced by Democratic representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, attempts to ban slavery in territory gained in the Mexican War. The proviso is blocked by Southerners, but continues to enflame the debate over slavery.
Frederick Douglass launches his abolitionist newspaper.
1849
Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery and becomes one of the most effective and celebrated leaders of the Underground Railroad.
1850
The continuing debate whether territory gained in the Mexican War should be open to slavery is decided in the Compromise of 1850: California is admitted as a free state, Utah and New Mexico territories are left to be decided by popular sovereignty, and the slave trade in Washington, DC, is prohibited. It also establishes a much stricter fugitive slave law than the original, passed in 1793.
1852
Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin is published. It becomes one of the most influential works to stir anti-slavery sentiments.
1854
Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act, establishing the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. The legislation repeals the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and renews tensions between anti- and proslavery factions.
1857
The Dred Scott case holds that Congress does not have the right to ban slavery in states and, furthermore, that slaves are not citizens.
1859
John Brown and 21 followers capture the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va. (now W. Va.), in an attempt to launch a slave revolt.
1861
The Confederacy is founded when the deep South secedes, and the Civil War begins.
1863
President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring "that all persons held as slaves" within the Confederate states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
1865
Congress establishes the Freedmen's Bureau to protect the rights of newly emancipated blacks (March).
The Civil War ends (April 9).
Lincoln is assassinated (April 14).
The Ku Klux Klan is formed in Tennessee by ex-Confederates (May).
Slavery in the United States is effectively ended when 250,000 slaves in Texas finally receive the news that the Civil War had ended two months earlier (June 19).
Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, prohibiting slavery (Dec. 6).
1865-1866
Black codes are passed by Southern states, drastically restricting the rights of newly freed slaves.
1867
A series of Reconstruction acts are passed, carving the former Confederacy into five military districts and guaranteeing the civil rights of freed slaves.
1868
Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, defining citizenship. Individuals born or naturalized in the United States are American citizens, including those born as slaves. This nullifies the Dred Scott Case (1857), which had ruled that blacks were not citizens.
1869
Howard University's law school becomes the country's first black law school.
1870
Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, giving blacks the right to vote.
Hiram Revels of Mississippi is elected the country's first African-American senator. During Reconstruction, sixteen blacks served in Congress and about 600 served in states legislatures.
1877
Reconstruction ends in the South. Federal attempts to provide some basic civil rights for African Americans quickly erode.
1879
The Black Exodus takes place, in which tens of thousands of African Americans migrated from southern states to Kansas.
1881
Spelman College, the first college for black women in the U.S., is founded by Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles.
Booker T. Washington founds the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. The school becomes one of the leading schools of higher learning for African Americans, and stresses the practical application of knowledge. In 1896, George Washington Carver begins teaching there as director of the department of agricultural research, gaining an international reputation for his agricultural advances.
1882
The American Colonization Society, founded by Presbyterian minister Robert Finley, establishes the colony of Monrovia (which would eventually become the country of Liberia) in western Africa. The society contends that the immigration of blacks to Africa is an answer to the problem of slavery as well as to what it feels is the incompatibility of the races. Over the course of the next forty years, about 12,000 slaves are voluntarily relocated.
1896
Plessy v. Ferguson: This landmark Supreme Court decision holds that racial segregation is constitutional, paving the way for the repressive Jim Crow laws in the South.
1905
W.E.B. DuBois founds the Niagara movement, a forerunner to the NAACP. The movement is formed in part as a protest to Booker T. Washington's policy of accommodation to white society; the Niagara movement embraces a more radical approach, calling for immediate equality in all areas of American life.
1909
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is founded in New York by prominent black and white intellectuals and led by W.E.B. Du Bois. For the next half century, it would serve as the country's most influential African-American civil rights organization, dedicated to political equality and social justice In 1910, its journal, The Crisis, was launched. Among its well known leaders were James Weldon Johnson, Ella Baker, Moorfield Storey, Walter White, Roy Wilkins, Benjamin Hooks, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Julian Bond, and Kwesi Mfume.
1914
Marcus Garvey establishes the Universal Negro Improvement Association, an influential black nationalist organization "to promote the spirit of race pride" and create a sense of worldwide unity among blacks.
1920s
The Harlem Renaissance flourishes in the 1920s and 1930s. This literary, artistic, and intellectual movement fosters a new black cultural identity.
1931
Nine black youths are indicted in Scottsboro, Ala., on charges of having raped two white women. Although the evidence was slim, the southern jury sentenced them to death. The Supreme Court overturns their convictions twice; each time Alabama retries them, finding them guilty. In a third trial, four of the Scottsboro boys are freed; but five are sentenced to long prison terms.
1947
Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball's color barrier when he is signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers by Branch Rickey.
1948
Although African Americans had participated in every major U.S. war, it was not until after World War II that President Harry S. Truman issues an executive order integrating the U.S. armed forces.
1952
Malcolm X becomes a minister of the Nation of Islam. Over the next several years his influence increases until he is one of the two most powerful members of the Black Muslims (the other was its leader, Elijah Muhammad). A black nationalist and separatist movement, the Nation of Islam contends that only blacks can resolve the problems of blacks.
1954
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans. declares that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional (May 17).
1955
A young black boy, Emmett Till, is brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Two white men charged with the crime are acquitted by an all-white jury. They later boast about committing the murder. The public outrage generated by the case helps spur the civil rights movement (Aug.).
Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the "colored section" of a bus to a white passenger (Dec.1). In response to her arrest Montgomery's black community launch a successful year-long bus boycott. Montgomery's buses are desegregated on Dec. 21, 1956.
1957
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights group, is established by Martin Luther King, Charles K. Steele, and Fred L. Shuttlesworth (Jan.-Feb.)
Nine black students are blocked from entering the school on the orders of Governor Orval Faubus. (Sept. 24). Federal troops and the National Guard are called to intervene on behalf of the students, who become known as the "Little Rock Nine." Despite a year of violent threats, several of the "Little Rock Nine" manage to graduate from Central High.
1960
Four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, begin a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter (Feb. 1). Six months later the "Greensboro Four" are served lunch at the same Woolworth's counter. The event triggers many similar nonviolent protests throughout the South.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded, providing young blacks with a place in the civil rights movement (April).
1961
Over the spring and summer, student volunteers begin taking bus trips through the South to test out new laws that prohibit segregation in interstate travel facilities, which includes bus and railway stations. Several of the groups of "freedom riders," as they are called, are attacked by angry mobs along the way. The program, sponsored by The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), involves more than 1,000 volunteers, black and white.
1962
James Meredith becomes the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi (Oct. 1). President Kennedy sends 5,000 federal troops after rioting breaks out.
1963
Martin Luther King is arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Ala. He writes "Letter from Birmingham Jail," which advocated nonviolent civil disobedience.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is attended by about 250,000 people, the largest demonstration ever seen in the nation's capital. Martin Luther King delivers his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The march builds momentum for civil rights legislation (Aug. 28).
Despite Governor George Wallace physically blocking their way, Vivian Malone and James Hood register for classes at the University of Alabama.
Four young black girls attending Sunday school are killed when a bomb explodes at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a popular location for civil rights meetings. Riots erupt in Birmingham, leading to the deaths of two more black youths (Sept. 15).
1964
President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. It prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin (July 2).
The bodies of three civil-rights workers are found. Murdered by the KKK, James E. Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner had been working to register black voters in Mississippi (Aug.).
Martin Luther King receives the Nobel Peace Prize. (Oct.)
1965
Malcolm X, black nationalist and founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, is assassinated (Feb. 21).
State troopers violently attack peaceful demonstrators led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as they try to cross the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Fifty marchers are hospitalized on "Bloody Sunday," after police use tear gas, whips, and clubs against them. The march is considered the catalyst for pushing through the voting rights act five months later (March 7).
Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting are made illegal (Aug. 10).
In six days of rioting in Watts, a black section of Los Angeles, 35 people are killed and 883 injured (Aug. 11-16).
1966
The Black Panthers are founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale (Oct.).
1967
Stokely Carmichael, a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), coins the phrase "black power" in a speech in Seattle (April 19).
Major race riots take place in Newark (July 12-16) and Detroit (July 23-30).
President Johnson appoints Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court. He becomes the first black Supreme Court Justice.
The Supreme Court rules in Loving v. Virginia that prohibiting interracial marriage is unconstitutional. Sixteen states still have anti-miscegenation laws and are forced to revise them.
1968
Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. (April 4).
President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing (April 11).
1972
The infamous Tuskegee Syphilis experiment ends. Begun in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service's 40-year experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis has been described as an experiment that "used human beings as laboratory animals in a long and inefficient study of how long it takes syphilis to kill someone."
1978
The Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action, but imposed limitations on it to ensure that providing greater opportunities for minorities did not come at the expense of the rights of the majority (June 28).
1992
The first race riots in decades erupt in south-central Los Angeles after a jury acquits four white police officers for the videotaped beating of African-American Rodney King (April 29).
2003
In Grutter v. Bollinger, the most important affirmative action decision since the 1978 Bakke case, the Supreme Court (5–4) upholds the University of Michigan Law School's policy, ruling that race can be one of many factors considered by colleges when selecting their students because it furthers "a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body." (June 23)
2006
In Parents v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jefferson, affirmative action suffers a setback when a bitterly divided court rules, 5 to 4, that programs in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., which tried to maintain diversity in schools by considering race when assigning students to schools, are unconstitutional.
2008
Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat from Chicago, becomes the first African American to be nominated as a major party nominee for president.
On November 4, Barack Obama, becomes the first African American to be elected president of the United States, defeating Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain.
2009
Barack Obama Democrat from Chicago, becomes the first African-American president and the country's 44th president.
On February 2, the U.S. Senate confirms, with a vote of 75 to 21, Eric H. Holder, Jr., as Attorney General of the United States. Holder is the first African American to serve as Attorney General.
On February 9, the first African American female flight crew took their historic flight, having come together accidentally when the scheduled first officer called in sick. Captain Rachelle Jones, first officer Stephanie Grant, and flight attendants Diana Galloway and Robin Rogers flew together on an Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight from Atlanta to Nashville.

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Virginia - History

Early Settlements of the Virginia Company

Virginia (named for Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen) at first included in its lands the whole vast area of North America not held by the Spanish or French. The colony on Roanoke Island, organized by Sir Walter Raleigh, failed, but the English soon made another attempt slightly farther north. In 1606 James I granted a charter to the London Company (better known later as the Virginia Company), a group of merchants lured by the thought of easy profits in mining and trade. The company sent three ships and 144 men under captains Christopher Newport, Bartholomew Gosnold, and John Ratcliffe to establish a base, and the tiny force entered Chesapeake Bay in Apr., 1607. On a peninsula in the James River they founded (May 13, 1607) the first permanent English settlement in America, which they called Jamestown. It soon became clear that the company's original plans were unrealistic, and the Jamestown settlers began a long and unexpected struggle to live off the land.

By 1608, despite the firm and resourceful leadership of John Smith, hunger and disease had reduced their numbers to 38. The company responded by sending supplies and men as well as new leadership in the person of Sir Thomas Gates, who was to take charge as deputy governor under the authority of a new charter (1609). Gates arrived in 1610 to find that only a handful of settlers had survived the terrible winter (the "starving time") of 1609–10. He decided to take them back to England, but as they were about to abandon the colony in June, 1610, his superior, Governor Thomas West, Baron De la Warr, ordered them to reoccupy Jamestown. Although sickness and starvation continued to take a heavy toll, the settlement at last began to make headway under the harsh regimes of Sir Thomas Dale, De la Warr's successor in 1611, and later under that of Sir Samuel Argall.

Tobacco, first cultivated by John Rolfe in 1612, gave the company new hope of a profitable return on its investment. To encourage settlement and improve agricultural productivity it granted colonists (still technically employees and shareholders) the right to own private gardens, then, at the urging of Sir Edwin Sandys, promised to give 100 acres (40 hectares) of its land to purchasers of stock and 50 acres (20 hectares) to settlers who brought over other settlers at his own expense (the "head-right" system). The company also set up smaller joint-stock companies to settle vast tracts known as "colonies" or "hundreds." In 1619, at the instruction of the company, Governor George Yeardley provided additional incentives to settlers by forming a house of burgesses—the first representative assembly in the New World—and in 1620 by beginning to send women to the colony.

Although these various expedients did succeed in attracting new settlers and strengthening the colony, the company itself failed to prosper. Rolfe's marriage (1614) to Pocahontas, daughter of chief Powhatan, secured good relations with the Native Americans for a time, but in 1622 Powhatan's son Opechancanough led the Powhatan Confederacy in a surprise attack on the colony, killing 350 settlers (about one third of the total community). English retaliation effectively ended Native American resistance, except for a final uprising of the Confederacy in 1644. However, the 1622 attack had delivered a fatal blow to the company, and in 1624, beset by internal dissension, it surrendered its charter to the crown.

A Royal Colony

After almost two decades as a private enterprise, Virginia became a royal colony, the first in English history. Partly because the English kings were occupied with affairs at home, the Virginia house of burgesses was able to continue its functions and won formal recognition in the late 1630s. Thus representative government under royal domain was assured. By 1641, when Sir William Berkeley became governor, the colony was well established and extended on both sides of the James up to its falls.

Three fourths of the European settlers (about 7,500 in 1641) had come as indentured servants or apprentices, but many of them became freemen and small farmers. In 1641 there were also about 250 Africans (the first had arrived in 1619 on a Dutch ship), most of whom were indentured servants rather than slaves. The freeholders, together with the merchant class (from which were descended most of the "first families of Virginia"), controlled the government. Only white males were enfranchised, and property-owning qualifications for voting continued during and after the colonial period.

Most of the white settlers were Anglicans, and during the civil war in England, many well-to-do Englishmen (mainly Anglicans and supporters of Charles I, if not actually Cavaliers) came to Virginia. The colony was understandably loyal to the crown until 1652, when an expedition sent by Oliver Cromwell forced it to adhere to the Puritan Commonwealth. With the Commonwealth busy at home, Virginia was practically independent until 1660, engaging in free trade with foreigners, especially the Dutch, and enjoying the profits of the expanding tobacco and fur trade. This prosperous era came to an end with the Restoration in 1660.

The Navigation Acts forced the tobacco trade to use only English ships and English ports, which were at first insufficient to handle it; tobacco piled up in Virginia and in England, and prices plummeted. The wealthy planters weathered this depression, but the small farmers faced ruin. Serious discontent spread and was aggravated by Governor Berkeley's high-handed policies, by his favoritism toward the wealthy tidewater planters, and by his refusal to sanction a campaign against the Native Americans who had been attacking frontier settlements. These grievances brought the eruption of Bacon's Rebellion in 1676. The unfortunate death of Nathaniel Bacon left the yeomen leaderless, and they were put down so ruthlessly that Berkeley was recalled to England.

Tidewater Plantations and Westward Migration

Expansion of the plantation system was made possible only with the use of slave labor (first recognized in law in 1662), and tens of thousands of Africans were being imported every year by the end of the century. Small, independent cultivators, unable to compete with the plantation-slave system, formed the nucleus of a poor white class that drifted southward or pioneered to the west. Also contributing to westward settlement were the French Huguenots, who came to Virginia by the end of the 17th cent. and began to settle the Piedmont.

Westward movement was stimulated under Gov. Alexander Spotswood, who himself discovered (1716) the Swift Run Gap in the Blue Ridge Mts., leading into the Shenandoah valley. Spotswood also imported (1714–17) Germans to work his iron furnaces in the Piedmont area, and numerous others followed their countrymen. They helped settle the Shenandoah valley (beginning c.1730) as did many newcomers from Pennsylvania—German Lutherans, English Quakers, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, and a lesser number of Welsh Baptists.

Soil exhaustion from continuous tobacco cultivation hastened the westward march, as did the settlement activities of land speculators like Spotswood and William Byrd (d. 1744). Many of these speculators were indebted eastern planters attempting to salvage their fortunes. The Ohio Company grant (1749) furthered exploration beyond the Allegheny Mts. but brought conflict with the French.

The activities and interests of the new frontier settlements contrasted sharply with the plantation life of the tidewater region, where the lavish material life of the planter aristocracy was complemented by high cultural accomplishments and by the spread of the ideas of the Enlightenment. The last of the French and Indian Wars, in which Virginians—notably Col. George Washington—were prominent, ended the French obstacle to westward migration. After the war many indebted planters were disturbed by England's own limitations on westward settlement.

The American Revolution

Along with Massachusetts, Virginia was a leader in the movement that culminated in the American Revolution although, despite the burning oratory of Patrick Henry and the enlightened political writings of Thomas Jefferson and other brilliant native spokesmen, Virginia was never as politically discontent or radical as Massachusetts. In 1773 the burgesses at Williamsburg (the capital since 1699), led by Richard Henry Lee, formed an intercolonial committee of correspondence. The Virginia leaders proposed (May, 1774) a congress of all the colonies, delegates were chosen at the First Virginia Convention (Aug.), and in September Virginia's Peyton Randolph was elected president of the First Continental Congress. The next year, in June, George Washington was made commander in chief of the Continental Army.

After the patriots forced the royal governor, John Murray, earl of Dunmore, to flee, the Fifth Virginia Convention (May 6–June 29, 1776) declared the colony's independence, instructed the Virginia delegates to the Continental Congress to propose general colonial independence (resulting in the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson), and adopted a declaration of rights and the first constitution of a free American state, both drawn up by George Mason. Patrick Henry was elected the first governor.

Although the British had burned Norfolk in Jan., 1776, they did not invade the state in full force until 1779, when they took Portsmouth and Suffolk. Continentals under Lafayette came to Virginia in 1780, and the British cause was lost as American land forces and a French fleet combined to bring about Cornwallis's surrender (Oct. 19, 1781) in the Yorktown campaign. Meanwhile, George Rogers Clark and his Virginians had wrested (1779) the Northwest Territory from the British, and in 1784 Virginia yielded its claim to this area to the federal government.

Virginia's Role in the New Nation

During the Revolution a degree of religious freedom had been instituted in Virginia under the lead of Jefferson. Other reforms had removed entail and primogeniture from land tenure, liberalized the legal code, and abolished further importation of slaves. A liberal law for formal emancipation of slaves was passed in 1782 and remained in force for more than 20 years. In 1786 a statute for religious freedom, championed by James Madison, completed the disestablishment of the Anglican Church and established complete religious equality for all Virginians.

In replacing the unsatisfactory Articles of Confederation with the Constitution of the United States, Virginians, especially James Madison, again played leading roles. Other leaders such as Patrick Henry, Edmund Pendleton, and Edmund Randolph at various times opposed the document, but the state ratified it (June 26, 1788) with both tidewater and western support. Later, another Virginian, Chief Justice John Marshall, later gave the document much of its strength. The Old Dominion ceded (1789) a portion of its Potomac lands to the United States for the creation of the District of Columbia. In 1792, Kentucky, a Virginia county since 1776, was admitted to the Union as a separate state. After Madison and Jefferson raised an opposition to the financial program of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, Virginia supported the emerging Democratic-Republican party's struggle against the Federalists and became a hotbed of states' rights sentiment (see Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions).

Of the first 12 Presidents of the United States, seven were Virginians—Washington, Jefferson, Madison, James Monroe (these four comprising the "Virginia Dynasty"), William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and Zachary Taylor. Later, in the 20th cent., the name of Woodrow Wilson was to further lengthen the generally distinguished list of Virginian presidents.

The native sons who led the country during the 1800s sometimes expanded national power and national development to an extent that many states' rights Virginians deemed unconstitutional. However, Virginia itself, stimulated by western complaints, embarked on a vigorous policy of internal improvements in the second and third decades of the 19th cent. The tidewater majority made few concessions to western demands for male suffrage and other reforms in the constitution of 1830. Economically, however, the whole state benefited from transportation improvements, from the growth of scientific agriculture and the spread of wheat cultivation, and from the growth of such industries as tobacco processing and iron manufacture.

Slavery, Insurrection, and Civil War

As the cotton economy grew in the newer Southern states the tidewater became a breeding ground for the slaves they needed. Elsewhere in the state, especially in the west, antislavery sentiment was strong in the early 19th cent., and following the slave insurrection (1831) led by Nat Turner the house of delegates voted down a bill to abolish slavery by the narrow margin of seven votes. The insurrection did result in harsher laws and more conservative policies regarding African Americans. The constitution of 1851, granted suffrage to "every white male citizen," and thus effected reapportionment of representation.

For the most part Virginians labored to avert conflict between North and South. But "fire-eaters" such as Edmund Ruffin and abolitionists such as John Brown of Harpers Ferry fame, shaped the course that led to the Civil War. Secession came (Apr. 17, 1861) only after all attempts to keep peace had failed. Virginia joined the Confederacy, and Richmond became the Confederate capital. Robert E. Lee entered the military service of the South's new government, but not a few Virginians such as Winfield Scott, George H. Thomas, and David G. Farragut remained loyal to the Union. Most Virginians who lived west of the Appalachians also opposed secession, and on June 20, 1863, this section was admitted to the Union as the new state of West Virginia. As the conflict progressed, Virginia emerged as the chief battleground of the Civil War.

In the beginning the Union armies repeatedly suffered setbacks—at the first battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861), in the Seven Days battles of the Peninsular campaign (April-July, 1862) after the Monitor and Merrimack had clashed in Hampton Roads, and in lesser but related campaigns such as the triumph of Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson in the Shenandoah valley. The second battle of Bull Run (Aug., 1862) was a smashing victory for Lee, but in the Antietam campaign (Sept., 1862) he fared no better than Union Gen. George B. McClellan in invading enemy country. However, in the battles of Fredericksburg (Dec. 13, 1862) and Chancellorsville (May 2–4, 1863), the Federals under Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside and then under Gen. Joseph Hooker were again repulsed.

Thus encouraged, Lee and his lieutenants—James Longstreet, R. S. Ewell, A. P. Hill, and J. E. B. Stuart—undertook another invasion of the North but failed against George G. Meade in the Gettysburg campaign (June–July, 1863). That campaign marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy, although it took considerable bloody pounding by Gen. U. S. Grant in the Wilderness campaign (May–June, 1864) and the siege of Petersburg (1864–65) before Lee surrendered what remained of his Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse (see under Appomattox) on Apr. 9, 1865. President Jefferson Davis had already fled Richmond, and the Confederacy soon collapsed.

Postwar Political Reform and a New Economy

The war left its marks on the land and the people. The Shenandoah Valley was particularly desolate after the campaigns of Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early and Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan in 1864. But poverty-stricken as it was after the war, the state, under Gov. Francis H. Pierpont, escaped the worst aspects of Reconstruction. Radical Republicans were but briefly in power. On the recommendation (1869) of President Ulysses S. Grant, Congress allowed Virginia to vote without coercion, and the state passed the essential clauses of a constitution that the Radicals had drafted (1868), providing for free public schools and heavy taxes on land. More importantly, Virginia was allowed to elect to office its own moderate party, the "white Republicans," led by Gen. William Mahone. Radical sway was ended. In 1870, after the Virginia assembly had ratified the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, the state was readmitted to the Union.

The abolition of slavery and the hard agricultural times of postwar decades ended the plantation system in Virginia and brought some increase in farm tenancy, but the economy benefited from diversification as fruit farming and the tobacco industry became important. To offset declines in demand for dark Virginia tobacco, the bright-leaf variety was increasingly grown.

Politics and Industry in the Early Twentieth Century

In 1902 a new state constitution demanded rigorous literacy tests for voters, thus completing the long process of reducing the black electorate. During the years preceding World War I, Virginia's prosperity grew as dairy farming in particular gained importance. During the war agriculture boomed, as did industry. Especially prosperous were the important shipbuilding works at Hampton Roads.

In the mid-1920s, Harry Flood Byrd assumed direction of the state's powerful Democratic organization, formerly headed by U.S. Senator Thomas S. Martin and Methodist Episcopal Bishop James Cannon, Jr. Byrd, governor from 1926 to 1930 and U.S. Senator from 1933 until 1965, became the most influential figure in the state. As chief executive he initiated a sound reorganization of the state government, brought about the passage of the first antilynching law adopted by any state, and improved the highway system. However, the organization's chief boast was that the state was entirely free of debt due to a rigid "pay-as-you-go" policy. Liberals criticized this financial policy for scrimping on public education and welfare.

In the Great Depression of the 1930s Virginia fared better than many states. Its industries had not been overexpanded, and, more important, the state's economy was built around consumer goods—foods, textiles, and tobacco—that remained in relatively high demand. Farmers benefited from the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, but conservative Virginians resisted some of the economic policies of the New Deal. In World War II Virginia was the scene of much military training, and the shipyards at Hampton Roads and other industries again aided the war effort. In the prosperous postwar period the conservative Byrd organization maintained its power.

Desegregation and Growth

After the 1954 Supreme Court decision on public school integration, attempts at desegregating Virginia's schools proceeded slowly. After Virginia courts and federal courts ruled illegal the order by Gov. J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., to close public schools in nine counties, a lame compromise of "local option" was adopted. With the exception of Prince Edward County, where schools remained closed from 1959 until 1964, all parts of Virginia had accepted at least token integration by the mid-1960s. In 1989, L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat, became the first African American elected governor in Virginia.

Virginia has benefited in recent decades from increased federal spending. In the 1980s the Hampton Roads area saw a naval shipbuilding boom. The greatest growth, however, has come in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where expanded federal offices and hundreds of quasi-official and private organizations engaged in lobbying, communications, and other businesses that owe their existence to proximity to the seat of the government have in turn spawned trade and service hubs like Dale City and Tysons Corner.

 

 
 

 

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