Map of Solar Eclipse, Collection of Michael Zeiler

Solar Eclipse

Path of 1831 annular solar eclipse seen by Nat Turner. NASA, collection of  Michael Zeiler. Since ancient times we’ve viewed solar eclipses with foreboding. But they don’t affect our lives, do they? The most significant solar eclipse in American history happened in 1831. What made it important was a man who saw it. Nat Turner, […]

Walter Plecker

Bureau of Vital Statistics

The work of Dr. Walter Plecker’s Bureau of Vital Statistics would culminate in Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act, which remained on the books until it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. Plecker is depicted in the novel, Forsaken. Born into a slave-owning family in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia just days before […]

Elizabeth City County Courthouse, 1913. (Courtesy of the Hampton History Museum, Hampton, Va. Cheyne Collection 2009.15.1998)

Dangerous Situation

(Large photo) Elizabeth City County Courthouse, Hampton, Virginia, where Virginia Christian was tried for murder in 1912. (Small photo) Inez C. Fields, the daughter of George Washington Fields, lead defense attorney in the Virginia Christian trial. (Massachusetts Historical Society) Was it a good idea for the father [Henry Christian] to testify that he did not know the […]

Yellow carryall bus

The Yellow Carryall Bus, by Michael Weeks

In May 1955, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education II, stating that “all deliberate speed” was to guide the desegregation of schools. That fall I started first grade in Floyd, Virginia, riding bus #27 the seven miles from home to my elementary school. In Floyd there was […]

Chestnut_stump

Imagination

Stumps and logs were what remained of the American chestnut tree on our farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains when I was a boy. At woods edge near the house stood a lone tree, stunted, no more than ten feet tall. For years it leafed out in the spring, but the leaves withered. Then, only […]

Nazi Propaganda Image

Pendulum

Yesterday I listened to an NPR interview with author Peter Ross Range, who’s just published the book, 1924: The Year That Made Hitler. “This was the year of Hitler’s final transformation into the self-proclaimed savior and infallible leader who would interpret and distort Germany’s historical traditions to support his vision for the Third Reich,” reads […]

Santa Claus

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus

“Is there a Santa Claus?” asked little Virginia O’Hanlon in a letter to the editor of the New York Sun newspaper in 1897. Francis Pharcellus Church wrote the paper’s legendary reply. “Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus,” Church said. “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that […]

Elizabeth City County Courthouse, 1913. (Courtesy of the Hampton History Museum, Hampton, Va. Cheyne Collection 2009.15.1998)

April 8

On this day in 1912 at 10 o’clock in the morning, the murder trial of sixteen-year-old Virginia Christian opened in the Elizabeth City County Courthouse, Hampton, Virginia. An African-American girl, “Virgie,” as she was called, was convicted of killing her white employer, Ida Belote, a fifty-one-year-old widow. Virgie died in the electric chair at the […]