Virginia (state), in full Commonwealth of Virginia, state in the eastern United States and one of the original 13 colonies. Named for the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I of England, Virginia was England’s first successful overseas colony and the site of the first permanent English settlement in America. At one time it held territory from which several other states were later formed. West Virginia was part of Virginia until 1863. Virginia’s rich political heritage helped shape the democratic principles on which the United States was founded. Virginia played an important role in the American Revolution (1775-1783), and it entered the Union as the tenth of the original 13 states on June 25, 1788. During the American Civil War (1861-1865) the state’s capital, Richmond, was also capital of the Confederacy. The state has long been nicknamed Old Dominion.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe, all Virginians, were founding fathers of the United States and were among the first five U.S. presidents. Virginia was also the birthplace of U.S. presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson.
Virginia is the 35th largest state in the United States, covering 110,784 sq km (42,774 sq mi), including 2,606 sq km (1,006 sq mi) of inland water and 4,475 sq km (1,728 sq mi) of coastal waters over which the state has jurisdiction. It is roughly triangular in shape and has a maximum extent from east to west of 755 km (469 mi) and a maximum from north to south of 323 km (201 mi). Its mean elevation is 290 m (950 ft). Virginia is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north and east by Maryland and the District of Columbia, on the west by West Virginia and Kentucky, and on the south by Tennessee and North Carolina.
Five natural regions, or physiographic provinces, extend across Virginia in a general northeast to southwest direction. They are, from east to west, the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge province, the Ridge and Valley province, and the Appalachian Plateaus. The natural regions are part of two larger divisions of the eastern United States. The Atlantic-Gulf Coastal Plain is a broader lowland area that extends along the entire coast of the continent from New York to Mexico. The Piedmont, the Blue Ridge province, the Ridge and Valley province, and the Appalachian Plateaus are subdivisions of the Appalachian Region and the Appalachian Mountains.
Virginia’s Coastal Plain extends inland as far as the Fall Line, a narrow zone of small waterfalls and rapids that occurs at the point where the major rivers pass from the resistant granites and other ancient rocks of the Piedmont to the more easily eroded sands, clays, and shales of the Coastal Plain. Low hills rise to elevations of about 90 m (about 300 ft) along the Fall Line, but wide areas of the Coastal Plain are flat and low-lying. Tidal swamps and marshes border the rivers as far as the Fall Line, and the Coastal Plain in Virginia is commonly referred to as the Tidewater area. Part of the Great Dismal Swamp occupies the extreme southern area of the plain.
Chesapeake Bay divides the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, which is known locally as the Eastern Shore, from Virginia’s mainland areas, which are located west of the bay. The mainland in turn is divided by the James, York, Rappahannock, and Potomac rivers into three necks, or peninsulas. From north to south, the peninsulas are named Northern Neck, the Middle Peninsula, and the Williamsburg or James River Peninsula, often simply called The Peninsula. Chesapeake Bay is one of the world’s largest estuaries, a bay where freshwater and tidal saltwater mix.
The Piedmont is divided into two separate units, the Piedmont Upland, or Piedmont Plateau, which extends over most of the area, and the Piedmont Lowlands, a small wedge-shaped area between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. The Piedmont Upland is mostly rolling hill country, which rises from about 90 m (about 300 ft) above sea level along the Fall Line to about 150 to 300 m (about 500 to 1,000 ft) and in places to 600 m (2,000 ft) at the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge province. The Piedmont Lowlands have an average elevation of about 90 to 120 m (about 300 to 400 ft) and have more fertile soils.
The Blue Ridge province consists of a long narrow string of thickly forested mountains, which form a prominent and nearly continuous ridge from Harpers Ferry in West Virginia southwestward across Virginia to the Carolinas. The Virginia section of the Blue Ridge province reaches an average elevation of about 900 m (about 3,000 ft) above sea level in the northern sections to more than 1,200 m (more than 4,000 ft) in the southern sections. White Top Mountain rises to 1,682 m (5,520 ft). Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia, has an elevation of 1,746 m (5,729 ft). While very narrow in the north, the Blue Ridge widens south of Roanoke and becomes about 100 km (about 60 mi) wide near the North Carolina border. This triangular area of rugged, high elevation is known as the Blue Ridge Plateau.
The Ridge and Valley province consists of a series of narrow, elongated, forested knobs and ridges, which are aligned parallel to one another in a northeast-to-southwest direction. These ridges are separated by lowlands and river valleys, which are generally cleared and used for farming. Most of the ridges attain elevations of about 900 to 1,200 m (about 3,000 to 4,000 ft). Among the more prominent are Massanutten Mountain, Shenandoah Mountain, Brushy Mountain, Walker Mountain, and Clinch Mountain. The most prominent valley is the Great Appalachian Valley. The Shenandoah Valley is part of the Great Appalachian Valley.
The Appalachian Plateaus comprise a small area in the extreme western section of the state. The northernmost part of this area is part of the Kanawha Plateau. The southern part is the Cumberland Plateau, which lies east of Kentucky’s Cumberland Mountains. Most of the area is from about 600 to 900 m (about 2,000 to 3,000 ft) above sea level and contains valuable deposits of bituminous coal.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
The longest river wholly within Virginia is the James River, which flows into the head of Hampton Roads. The Appomattox and Chickahominy rivers are the principal tributaries of the James, which is navigable for deep-draft ships as far as the Fall Line at Richmond. The Potomac River, which forms all but the Eastern Shore boundary between Virginia and Maryland, is navigable as far upstream as Washington, D.C., and has the Shenandoah River as its major tributary in Virginia. The Rappahannock River is navigable by small craft as far upstream as the Fall Line at Fredericksburg. All of Virginia’s major rivers, except the Roanoke, which crosses into North Carolina, widen out into broad tidal estuaries in their lower reaches. Other rivers of eastern Virginia include the York River, an estuary about 60 km (about 40 mi) long formed by the union of the Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers, and the Blackwater and Nottoway rivers.
In western Virginia are the New River, which joins the Kanawha in West Virginia; the Clinch, Powell, and Holston rivers, which are tributaries of the Tennessee; and the Levisa and Russell forks, which are tributaries of the Big Sandy River.
Lake Drummond, located in the heart of Great Dismal Swamp in southern Virginia, is the largest natural lake in the state. The unusual round shape of Lake Drummond presents a mystery. Some geologists believe it may have been formed by a meteorite or by a bog fire in the peat soils of the Dismal Swamp. The state’s biggest body of water is John H. Kerr Reservoir, on the Roanoke River. Other large reservoirs include Philpott Reservoir, on the Smith River; Claytor Lake, on the New River; Lake Anna, on the North Anna River; and South Holston Lake, a lake of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) built on the south fork of the Holston River at the Virginia-Tennessee state line.
Virginia’s coastline, for both the mainland and the Eastern Shore counties, is 180 km (112 mi) long. The state’s tidal shoreline measures 5,335 km (3,315 mi), including all bays, inlets, tidal estuaries, and other indentations. Major indentations include Chesapeake Bay; Hampton Roads, the excellent natural harbor on which are located Newport News, Norfolk, and Portsmouth; and the wide tidal estuaries of the lower Potomac, James, Rappahannock, and York rivers. Cape Henry, in the southeast, and Cape Charles, at the southern tip of the Eastern Shore, are the two most prominent capes. Long sandy beaches border the coast at Virginia Beach and along much of the Eastern Shore, but most other coastal areas have tidal marshes and swamps.
Virginia has hot, mostly humid summers and mild wet winters.
Average temperatures in the state generally decrease from southeast to northwest. Two areas are particularly distinct. The climate of the southeastern Coastal Plain, moderated by the Atlantic Ocean, has fewer hot and cold days, less snowfall, and a longer growing season than is typical in the rest of the state. Because of its altitude, the Cumberland Plateau region has fewer hot days, more cold days, and more snowfall than most parts of Virginia. Average January temperatures range from less than freezing in the west along the Kentucky line to more than 6°C (42°F) in southeastern Virginia. Average July temperatures range from more than 26°C (78°F) in the southeast to less than 20°C (68°F) in the western mountains. Extreme daytime temperatures in the upper 30°s C (lower 100°s F) sometimes occur on the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont and are often accompanied by high humidity.
Total precipitation ranges from about 900 to 1,000 mm (about 35 to 40 in) a year in the northern part of the Ridge and Valley province, the driest part of Virginia, to more than 1,300 mm (50 in) in the southeast and in the extreme southwestern parts of the state. Snowfalls are moderate, except in the mountains.
The growing season ranges between 150 and 230 days. It lasts from late March to the middle of November in the southeastern sections of the state. In the higher western areas of Virginia the growing season is from late April to early October.
Most of Virginia is covered with well-developed soils that are generally productive when properly managed. Fertile gray-brown soils are found in the cooler northern areas of the Piedmont, in the Coastal Plain, and in the valleys of the west, especially the Great Appalachian Valley. Red-yellow soils, which are generally easy to cultivate, predominate in the southern Piedmont and higher sections of the southern Coastal Plain. However, intensive cultivation of tobacco, and in some areas cotton, has led to erosion of topsoil and thus rendered large areas unproductive without heavy fertilization. This is particularly true of the Tidewater (Coastal Plain) soils where most tobacco was grown and which have now experienced 350 years of cultivation.
Virginia’s mountain areas have only thin soils that are unsuited for cultivation. Bog soils in the lower areas of the southern Coastal Plain are remarkably rich in organic matter and were extremely productive agriculturally when drained. Modern wetland preservation legislation protects the Great Dismal Swamp and regulates against the destruction of other wetlands.
Forests cover 63 percent of Virginia. Although almost entirely second-growth, or forests that have developed after extensive logging cleared the original forest, most of the state’s forests have commercial value.
Deciduous hardwood forests, dominated by white and red oaks, tulip-poplars, maples, and hickories, cover nearly two-thirds of the forest area. Other common hardwoods include gum, ash, walnut, cherry, birch, and beech. Evergreen pine and mixed oak and pine forests make up the area not covered by deciduous forest. Loblolly pine is most prevalent in the eastern Coastal Plain, while white pine is more common in the western mountains. Sycamore, river birch, and willows line streams and rivers. In Coastal Plain swamps, forests of bald cypress, swamp oaks, tupelos, and occasionally Atlantic white-cedar are found. Small areas of red spruce and Fraser fir cover mountain tops in Virginia.
Small trees and shrubs found in Virginia include rhododendrons, azaleas, mountain-laurel, redbuds, and dogwoods. The state flower, the dogwood, is framed by clusters of colorful leaves, rather than true petals. A variety of wildflowers, including trilliums, windflowers, lady’s slippers, wild geraniums, asters, and goldenrods, bloom in spring, summer, and fall.
Before the arrival of European settlers, Virginia was home to large mammals such as the elk, bison, wolf, and mountain lion. Today, as a result of extirpation and habitat loss, the only large mammals remaining are the white-tailed deer, the black bear, and several species of whales in offshore waters. Many species of small mammals occur in the state. Some of these are called fur-bearers because they are game animals prized for their fur, such as the muskrat, beaver, river otter, bobcat, red fox, gray fox, mink, and raccoon. Reptiles such as the eastern box turtle and northern fence lizard are very common, as are amphibians such as the green frog and mud salamander. There are only three species of venomous snakes—the eastern cottonmouth, the northern copperhead, and the timber rattlesnake. There are 32 species of nonvenomous snakes, among which the most frequently seen include the black rat snake and the eastern garter snake.
The Atlantic Flyway, a great pathway for birds migrating along the coast of North America, crosses Virginia, and the state provides important resting and feeding grounds. The tidal rivers and marshes of the Coastal Plain, Eastern Shore, and the Chesapeake Bay provide the aquatic habitat necessary to support thousands of migrating waterfowl such as ducks and geese. Songbirds such as warblers, orioles, and flycatchers also migrate to Virginia, staying during the summer to breed. Gulls, bitterns, herons, and other shorebirds can be seen around numerous ponds and lakes. Game birds, such as the bobwhite quail, mourning dove, and wild turkey can be found in many fields and meadows. Nongame birds such as the nuthatch, downy woodpecker, and wood thrush are found throughout the state in forested areas. Common birds that can often be seen around human habitation include the mockingbird, American goldfinch, black-capped chickadee, and cardinal, the state bird. Birds of prey, called raptors, include the bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, osprey, and peregrine falcon.
Conservation programs in Virginia are concerned with flood control, soil erosion, wildlife preservation, and pollution control. They are administered by state departments and by federal agencies. The United States Army Corps of Engineers operates a number of flood-control and hydroelectric dams, principally in the Roanoke River watershed. The Natural Resources Conservation Service and the state soil conservation committee combined to initiate contour plowing, strip-cropping, and terracing to deal with soil erosion. The management of Virginia’s valuable commercial fishery is the responsibility of both the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia commission of fisheries. The commission of game and inland fisheries manages Virginia’s other fish and wildlife resources. State boards regulate water and air pollution. A state Council on the Environment coordinates environmental concerns. States abutting Chesapeake Bay have agreed to cooperate in reducing pollution in the bay, which suffers runoff from agriculture and coal mines as well as urban and industrial pollution from large metropolitan areas, including Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
In 2006 Virginia had 29 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Progress was being made in efforts to reduce pollution; in the period 1995–2000 the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment was reduced by 10 percent.
Until the Civil War the economy of Virginia depended mainly on tobacco growing. After the war agriculture became more diversified, based increasingly on livestock and grain. In the 20th century, industries, especially the manufacture of chemicals, tobacco products, food products, and textiles, grew increasingly important. Coal mining became a major activity in the southwestern part of the state. World War II (1939-1945) and the postwar era saw a huge expansion in shipbuilding in the Hampton Roads area and in federal government activity in the Washington, D.C., area.
In 2006 Virginia’s labor force was 3,999,000 people. Of those 40 percent worked in services, performing such jobs as restaurant serving or computer programming. Another 18 percent worked in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military. Wholesale and retail trade accounted for 18 percent of the jobs; manufacturing for 7 percent; finance, insurance, and real estate for 22 percent; construction for 6 percent; transportation or public utilities for 18 percent; farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing for 2 percent; and mining for 0.3 percent. In 2005, 5 percent of Virginia’s workers were unionized.
In 2005 there were 47,000 farms in Virginia. Of the farms 35 percent produced an annual income of $10,000 or more; many of the others were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Farmland covered 3.4 million hectares (8.5 million acres), or more than one-third of the state’s land area. Crops are grown on 49 percent of Virginia’s farmland. Most of the remaining land is pasture or forest.
Livestock and livestock products are Virginia’s leading sources of farm income, providing 66 percent of agricultural revenue in 2004. The raising of poultry is farming’s chief economic activity, representing about one-third of agricultural income. Poultry farming, especially turkeys, is a major activity in the Shenandoah Valley, as are chickens on the Eastern Shore. The raising of beef cattle is especially important in the northern Piedmont. Dairy farms are found throughout the state. Virginia’s farms also raise a significant number of hogs. Smithfield ham, originally made from hogs fed a special diet of peanuts, is produced here.
Tobacco declined in importance as a crop in the early 1800s and after the Civil War. However, the process was developed of curing bright-leaf tobacco by heat conducted through flues. The Virginia tobacco it produced became one of the most popular cigarette tobaccos. Thus tobacco farming survived. Excluding livestock, tobacco brought more money to Virginia farmers in the late 1990s than any other agricultural product. It is grown principally in the southern and central Piedmont. Virginia produces two main types of cigarette tobacco, each grown in different regions of the state. Burley tobacco is grown primarily in southwest Virginia, and flue-cured is grown mainly in the central and southern Piedmont. Also grown mainly in the Piedmont is a small amount of specialty tobacco, such as fire-cured and sun-cured, used for chewing tobacco and snuff. The other major crops are nursery and greenhouse products, hay, soybeans, peanuts (grown in the Coastal Plain south of the James River), and corn, which is widely raised throughout the state.
Virginia is the country’s sixth leading apple producer. Peaches, another important fruit crop, and apples predominate in the northern Shenandoah Valley and adjacent Blue Ridge province. A variety of vegetables are grown in eastern Virginia, especially on the Eastern Shore.
Virginia ranked among the top ten commercial fishing states in the late 1990s. Major centers for fishing are Hampton-Norfolk, Chincoteague, and Cape Charles-Oyster, and the state has many other commercial-fishing communities, especially along the Tidewater shore in eastern Virginia. The most valuable part of the catch is shellfish, particularly sea scallops, hard- and soft-shelled blue crabs, and oysters. The leading finfishes by value are flounder, spot, common eel, anglerfish, sea bass, and croaker.
Forestry, which provides raw materials for the wood, paper, and pulp industries, is carried on in the central and southern Piedmont, where large acreages of former cropland have been replanted with trees. Trees most important to the state’s timber industry include yellow pine, white and red oak, yellow-poplar, Eastern white pine, sweetgum, and hickory.
The mining of bituminous coal from the Cumberland Plateau, in the southwestern part of the state, accounted for about three-fifths of Virginia’s income from minerals in the late 1990s. Extractions of crushed stone, sand and gravel, cement, and lime were also valuable. Virginia is the country’s only producer of kyanite, a mineral used in the production of bricks and high-temperature clays.
The manufacturing of chemicals and associated products is the largest industry in Virginia, according to the value of its production. Included in this sector are firms making plastic materials and synthetics, drugs, and chemicals used in other industrial processes.
The processing of agricultural goods from Virginia’s farms is another primary manufacturing sector. Leading employers include plants processing broilers and eggs for market, meat-packing plants, companies making prepared meat products, and bakeries. Harrisonburg is a center for poultry processing, Winchester for apple processing, and Smithfield for meat products.
The manufacturing of transportation equipment contributes more to personal income than any other industry in Virginia. Leading components of the transportation industry are shipbuilding and ship repairing, primarily conducted in the Newport News and Norfolk-Portsmouth areas, and the manufacture of motor vehicle parts. The assembly of motor vehicles themselves is also a leading industrial employer. Truck assembly plants are in Norfolk and Dublin, near Radford.
Ranked in terms of their production value, other leading industries are the printing of commercial materials and publishing of newspapers, books, and periodicals; manufacture of electronic and electrical equipment, such as radios and televisions, printed circuit boards, and industrial controls; and the manufacture of paper products. A large number of people also work in the tobacco industry, many either in the manufacture of cigarettes or in the processing of tobacco leaf.
Two manufacturers of semiconductors announced in the mid-1990s intentions to build large plants in Virginia, one in Goochland County near Richmond, the other in Northern Virginia in Manassas. Northern Virginia, where America Online has its headquarters, has become specialized in telecommunications and computer firms handling the flow of information in and out of Washington, D.C. The Northern Virginia area is part of a complex of high technology firms sometimes called the Netplex.
Civilian and military employment, mostly with the federal government, is an essential part of the Virginia economy. The cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Manassas Park and the counties of Arlington, Clarke, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, King George, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Warren are all part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and many of the working population in this section are employed by the federal government. The Pentagon, which houses the Department of Defense, is located in Virginia and is the leading federal employer in the northern part of the state. There are also important military bases in Virginia, particularly the massive complex of army, navy , and air force bases in the vicinity of Norfolk.
Virginia’s economic growth in the second half of the 20th century owed much to the rapid expansion of electric power in the state. Thermal plants burning fossil fuels, primarily coal, generated 61 percent of Virginia’s electricity in 2005. Nearly all of the rest came from 4 nuclear plants. Only a small share of the state’s electricity was generated in hydroelectric facilities, which were established on the James, Roanoke, Smith (a tributary of the Dan), New, and Rappahannock rivers.
In 2004 Virginia had 5,208 km (3,236 mi) of railroad track. The leading railroad companies operating in the state were CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Corporation. Coal makes up 61 percent of the tonnage of freight originating in the state.
Virginia had 115,815 km (71,964 mi) of highways in 2005, including 1,799 km (1,118 mi) of the federal interstate highway system. Most of the principal routes cross in Richmond near the center of the state. Interstate 95 acts as the chief north-south corridor, while Interstate 81 traverses the western edge of the state. The chief east-west route is Interstate 64. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, opened in 1964, connects the Eastern Shore with the rest of Virginia.
In 2007 Virginia had 7 airports, many of them private airfields. The busiest air terminals are Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport, both near Washington, D.C. Other principal airports are in Norfolk and Richmond.
The Hampton Roads area, which includes Norfolk, Newport News, and Portsmouth, is a leading seaport of the United States. Other major ports are Alexandria, on the Potomac River, and Richmond, on the James River. The state is served by a section of the Intracoastal Waterway.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF VIRGINIA|
According to the 2000 national census, Virginia’s population was 7,078,515, ranking it 12th among the states. The population increased during the 1990s by 891,157, an increase of 14.4 percent during the decade.
In 2000, 73 percent of the population lived in urban areas, compared to 47 percent in 1950. After 1940 there was a tremendous expansion of civilian and military employees in the federal government, so that in the 1980s the metropolitan corridor from Washington, D.C., south to Richmond and east to Newport News and Norfolk contained about one-half of the state’s total population. Virginia has three major metropolitan areas in its metropolitan corridor: Northern Virginia (the Virginia portion of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area); Richmond-Petersburg metropolitan area with 1,194,008 inhabitants in 2006; and the Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News metropolitan area (also known as Hampton Roads) with 1,647,346 residents. Virginia’s other metropolitan areas include Roanoke (295,050), Lynchburg (239,510), Charlottesville (190,278), Danville (107,087), and Bristol, the Virginia portion of the Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol metropolitan area that spreads into Tennessee. Virginia’s population density in 2006 was 75 persons per sq km (193 per sq mi).
Virginia’s first inhabitants were several Native American tribes belonging to three language groups, Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Siouan. The Native American population was probably less than 20,000 when European explorers and colonists arrived in the late 1500s and early 1600s. These settlers were mainly English, but in the 18th century, German and Scotch-Irish settlers entered from Pennsylvania. In 1619 the first Africans were landed in Virginia to be indentured servants, but their status soon deteriorated into slavery, and the black population began to grow rapidly late in the century, when the large-scale slave trade began.
At the time of the 2000 federal census whites constituted 72.3 percent of the population, blacks 19.6 percent, Asians 3.7 percent, Native Americans 0.3 percent, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders 0.1 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race 4 percent. Hispanics, who may be of any race, were 4.7 percent of Virginia’s people. Virginia’s three large metropolitan areas have a great deal of ethnic diversity. The Norfolk area, in particular, has one of the nation’s largest Filipino communities, and northern Virginia has the largest Vietnamese community on the East Coast. Northern Virginia is also home to large communities of Hispanics, especially from Central America, and Koreans.
Nine of the ten largest cities in Virginia are situated on the Eastern Seaboard or on the Fall Line. Virginia Beach, which fronts both Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean in the southeast corner of the state, is one of the most popular resort destinations on the East Coast, as well as Virginia’s largest city. Its population in 2006 was 435,619. Norfolk, once the state’s largest city but now in second position, has 229,112 inhabitants; nearby Portsmouth has 101,377 residents. Norfolk and Portsmouth are important trading centers. Their economy is based on maritime activities, notably foreign commerce. The Naval Base at Norfolk and the Naval Shipyard at Portsmouth employ thousands of civilians and military personnel.
Richmond, with a population of 192,913, is situated on the Fall Line. It is the state capital and a center of cigarette manufacturing, banking and insurance, and of both retail and wholesale trade. There are also manufacturers of chemicals, paper, and clothing in the city. Alexandria, with 136,974 inhabitants, is part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Newport News, with a population of 178,281 in 2006, and neighboring Hampton, with 145,017 inhabitants, are on the northern shore of Hampton Roads. They also serve as the hub of a large metropolitan area based on maritime activities. In Newport News is a shipyard that builds naval ships, including aircraft carriers, and ocean liners. Hampton is important for its aviation activities such as Langley Air Force Base and a National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility.
Roanoke, with 91,552 inhabitants, is the only large city in western Virginia. Its economy rests on the manufacture and repair of rail equipment, the production of clothing, textiles, and furniture, and services such as health care and banking. Lynchburg, with a population of 67,720, is a former tobacco-marketing center for the central Piedmont, but it is now more important as the site of light industries, including food processing and electronics. Danville, the home of an enormous textile complex has 32,760 inhabitants. Some urbanized Virginia counties also have large populations, notably Fairfax (1998 estimate, 929,239), Prince William (259,827), Henrico (246,052), Chesterfield (245,915), and Arlington (177,275).
The first English settlers in Virginia designated the Church of England as the colony’s established church. Dissenters in the colony, including Puritans and Quakers, did not accept the established church. In the early 1700s, German settlers brought with them the Mennonite, River Brethren, Amish, and Lutheran faiths. In the 1740s a religious revival began, and the Presbyterians and other groups, particularly in what is now West Virginia, propagated fundamentalist beliefs. In 1786 the Virginia assembly passed legislation separating church and state. During the 19th century both the Baptist and the Methodist denominations grew.
The church membership of Virginia is predominantly Protestant, and the largest denominations are the Baptists and Methodists. Virginia also has many Roman Catholics and a number of Jewish congregations. Virginia Christian broadcasters have extended their influence nationwide through cable television evangelism. Two of the better-known Virginia televangelists are Jerry Falwell, whose Liberty Baptist Church and affiliated Liberty University are located in Lynchburg, and Pat Robertson, whose Christian Broadcasting Network is based in Virginia Beach.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
The first free school in the United States was the Syms Free School in Hampton, Virginia, founded in 1634. Although Governor Thomas Jefferson submitted a bill to the Virginia General Assembly in 1779 proposing that free education be made available to all children, it was not until 1851 that a new state constitution provided for taxes to finance free primary schools. A plan for a uniform system of public education in Virginia was implemented after the Civil War. Secondary and normal schools were established, particularly in the early 1900s. In 1938 the Virginia legislature passed measures to upgrade the education system, with emphasis on adult education. Blacks and whites attended separate public schools in Virginia until the 1960s, when the state began to comply with a 1954 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that ruled such racially segregated schools were unconstitutional. The public schools are administered by a state board of education and a superintendent of public instruction.
Education in Virginia is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 18, which with Oklahoma is the longest education commitment of any state in the nation. Private schools enroll 9 percent of the state’s children. In the 2002–2003 Virginia spent $8,855 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 13.2 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9 students). Of those older than 25 years of age in 2006, 85.4 percent had a high school diploma, compared to 84.1 percent for the nation as a whole.
Virginia’s oldest institution of higher education, and the second oldest in the United States, is the College of William and Mary, founded in 1693 in Williamsburg and now a state-supported institution. The college’s School of Law is the oldest law school in the United States. Another school with deep historical roots is the University of Virginia (founded in 1819), in Charlottesville. The school was planned by Thomas Jefferson, who considered the creation of the university to be one of his proudest achievements.
In 2004–2005 Virginia had 39 public and 60 private institutions of higher education. Schools of note include Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute, in Lexington; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in Blacksburg; Virginia State University, in Petersburg; the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond; James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University, in Harrisonburg; Randolph-Macon College, in Ashland; Lynchburg College and Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, in Lynchburg; Norfolk State University and Old Dominion University, in Norfolk; Hampton University in Hampton; George Mason University in Fairfax; Hampden-Sydney College, near Lynchburg; Sweet Briar College, in Sweet Briar; Roanoke College, in Salem; and Hollins University, near Roanoke.
The first public library in Virginia was founded at Alexandria in 1794. There are now 90 tax-supported library systems in the state, each year circulating an average of 8.5 books for each resident. The leading college and university libraries in the state are the University of Virginia Library and the libraries of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the College of William and Mary. Hollins University maintains a large special collection of manuscripts and rare books. Hampton University has one of the world’s largest collections of books by and about blacks. The Library of Virginia, which houses the state archives, and the library of the Virginia Historical Society are both located in Richmond. The George C. Marshall Research Library in Lexington has books on military and diplomatic history.
Among the fine arts museums in Virginia are the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Hermitage Foundation Museum, both in Norfolk, and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, in Williamsburg. A number of historic buildings and sites, including Monticello, Mount Vernon, Stratford, and Arlington House, have been preserved as museums, and the Valentine Museum, in Richmond, has exhibits pertaining to the city. Along the James River between Richmond and Williamsburg are the James River Plantations, including Shirley, Berkeley, Edgewood, Evelynton, Westover, and Sherwood Forest. Two of the most unusual museums in the country are the Jamestown Settlement, whose exhibits dramatize the early years of the colony, and Colonial Williamsburg, a restoration of a section of 18th-century Williamsburg. Other noted museums in Virginia include The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News; the museum of the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond; the United States Marine Corps Air-Ground Museum in Quantico; the hands-on Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond; the Virginia Living Museum (nature center) in Newport News; Nauticus, a high-tech marine museum in Norfolk; and the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton features Irish, German, English, and early American farmsteads.
There are 27 daily newspapers published in Virginia. The state’s first newspaper was the Virginia Gazette, founded at Williamsburg in 1736. Influential dailies included the Richmond Times-Dispatch; the Daily Press, published in Newport News; the Virginian-Pilot, and The Ledger-Star, both published in Norfolk; and the Roanoke Times & World News. USA Today, a national newspaper, is published in Arlington.
The first radio station in the state was licensed as WTAR at Norfolk in 1923. In 1948 the first television station in Virginia, WTVR, began operations at Richmond. In 2002 there were 33 television stations and 123 AM and 133 FM radio stations broadcasting in the state.
Virginia contains many outstanding examples of colonial and Southern architecture. The Wren Building on the campus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg carries the name of the famous English architect Sir Christopher Wren, who may have influenced its design. George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon influenced later Southern colonial mansions. Thomas Jefferson fostered the Neoclassic style of architecture that became popular in the early 1800s. His home, Monticello, is one of the many beautiful examples found in Virginia. Jefferson also designed the Classical Revival-style State Capitol building at Richmond, his octagonal Poplar Forest retreat near Lynchburg, and the Rotunda and many other buildings at the University of Virginia. Many of the James River Plantation mansions feature the Georgian style. Richmond’s Fan District is a tree-lined area of Greek Revival and Victorian homes. The Pope-Leighey House in Fairfax is a cypress Usonian home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
|G||Music and Theater|
Colonial records show a continuous history of amateur and professional entertainment in Virginia’s settlements. The first theater in America was built in Williamsburg in 1716. In the mid-19th century, Richmond regained its former importance as a drama center, attracting great actors who spent their winter seasons there.
The Barter Theatre, at Abingdon, is unique in the United States. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, actors gave performances there in exchange for food, and the bartering arrangement gave the theater its name. Later, state funds were appropriated to support the Barter, and it became the official state theater. Today it presents three distinct programs of live theater—traditional, explorative, and for young audiences. TheatreVirginia is a professional repertory theater in Richmond. George Mason University’s 2,000-seat Center for the Arts offers dance, theater, and symphonies for its northern Virginia audiences.
Virginia’s folk music dates back to its earliest settlement, and centuries-old English ballads have survived in isolated pockets of the southwestern hill country. The ballad tradition of the hill people has been celebrated at White Top Mountain folk festivals and has appeared in major folklore collections. The music of the Appalachian hill people also evolved into bluegrass. Bristol, on the Virginia-Tennessee border, was an important location in the development of bluegrass and the style of music achieved nationwide recognition after a series of bluegrass festivals held near Roanoke in the 1960s. Southwest Virginia also lies near the heart of the region known for country music. The folk music of the Tidewater is composed chiefly of black spirituals and work songs.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
Virginia is a popular vacationland. Its varied topography and mild climate afford year-round recreational opportunities. The state’s historic sites draw many visitors. One of the most famous attractions is at Williamsburg. There, extensive restoration of buildings, gardens, and streets has recreated the city as it looked when it was the capital of the colony during the 18th century.
National Park Service units in Virginia include such areas of scenic beauty as the Shenandoah National Park, covering a large area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The George Washington Memorial Parkway, which skirts many historic sites associated with George Washington, the first U.S. president, extends from Maryland into Virginia. Sections of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Assateague Island National Seashore also lie within Virginia.
Colonial National Historical Park preserves several historic sites, including most of Jamestown Island, where the first permanent English settlement was founded, and Yorktown, where a British surrender brought the American Revolution to a close (see Yorktown, Siege of). National Park Service units associated with the Civil War include Manassas National Battlefield Park, which marks the site of the two battles of Bull Run. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park includes parts of four battlefields. Petersburg National Battlefield and Richmond National Battlefield Park preserve the sites of the battles fought in defense of the two cities. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park contains the restored village of Appomattox Court House, where the Confederate forces surrendered in 1865. Other National Park Service units include the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Arlington House-The Robert E. Lee Memorial, Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts, Prince William Forest Park, and a portion of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Two sites commemorate blacks who were influential in the nation’s development: the Booker T. Washington National Monument honors the noted educator and the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site recognizes the first woman to found and serve as president of a bank.
Other federally-maintained sites include Arlington National Cemetery, the burial site of prominent American leaders and distinguished veterans of the armed forces. The graves of President John F. Kennedy and American politician Robert Kennedy are located in the cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery is also the site of the Tomb of the Unknowns (often called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) where the remains of three unidentified American soldiers are interred. The Marine Corps War Memorial (popularly known as the Iwo Jima statue) is nearby.
The two national forests in Virginia have facilities for outdoor recreational activities. George Washington National Forest, along both sides of the Shenandoah Valley, and Jefferson National Forest, in the southwestern part of the state, combined cover 670,000 hectares (1,648,000 acres). Both forests include recreation areas and sections of the Appalachian Trail.
Many of the 28 state parks in Virginia offer camping, boating, and swimming facilities, as well as hiking and riding trails. Breaks Interstate Park, on the Kentucky-Virginia border and operated jointly by these two states, is known for its spectacular 460-m (1,500-ft) gorge known as the Breaks of the Cumberland, the longest and deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River.
The largest state park is Clinch Mountain in Russell County. Many of Virginia’s state parks include lakes such as Swift Creek Lake in Pocahontas State Park, which offers recreational facilities for nearby Richmond. The Staunton River Park on the reservoir formed by John H. Kerr Dam, and Claytor Lake State Park, in western Virginia, are other large state parks. Seashore State Park in Virginia Beach is the most-visited, attracting more than 1 million people each year. Virginia has 11 state forests, the largest of which is Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest, named for the counties where it is located.
|D||Other Places to Visit|
Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, and Monticello, which Thomas Jefferson designed for himself, are Virginia’s most noted historic homes. Other fine examples of 18th-century architecture are Ashlawn, the home of James Monroe, which was also designed by Jefferson; Gunston Hall, the home of George Mason, the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights; and Stratford Hall, the ancestral home and birthplace of Robert E. Lee. There are many historic churches and buildings, including Fort Monroe, at Old Point Comfort, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis was confined after the Civil War, and Saint John’s church in Richmond, where Patrick Henry delivered his famous “liberty or death” speech.
Among the most popular natural scenic attractions in Virginia are the limestone caverns in the Shenandoah Valley, such as Luray, Skyline, and Endless Caverns, that were carved from solid rock by the action of underground streams. Natural Bridge, south of Lexington, is a huge arch of stone. Natural Tunnel, near Gate City, was cut through a mountain by a creek and is 260 m (850 ft) long and 30 m (100 ft) high. The Natural Chimneys, at Mount Solon, are seven huge towers of rock that rise about 100 feet above the ground.
The best-known annual event in Virginia is the Apple Blossom Festival, which takes place at Winchester every spring. During April hundreds of historic houses and gardens are opened to the public during Garden Week. In May Jamestown Landing Day commemorates at Williamsburg the founding of the first permanent English colony in North America. Old-time fiddlers gather in Galax every August as they have since the 1930s. Competitors build unique sand castles during the Neptune Festival each September in Virginia Beach, while seafood lovers travel to Chincoteague Island each October for the Oyster Festival.
Virginia’s present state constitution, the state’s sixth, was adopted in 1970 and went into effect in 1971. Previous constitutions were adopted in 1776, 1830, 1851, 1869, and 1902. Proposed amendments to the constitution may be approved initially by a majority of the members of each house of the state legislature at two consecutive regular sessions. To be adopted they must then be approved by a majority of the electorate voting on them in a general election. Amendments may also be drawn up by constitutional conventions, called by a vote of two-thirds of the members of each house.
Virginia’s chief executive, the governor, is elected for a four-year term and cannot serve successive terms. The governor has extensive appointive powers and even appoints the state treasurer, an elected officer in almost every other state. The governor’s major appointments are generally subject to the approval of both houses of the state legislature. Another major power of the governor is to veto laws or individual items of appropriations measures passed by the state legislature. The governor also has the unusual option of returning a bill to the state legislature with the assurance that the bill will be signed if certain specified amendments are made. If the legislature refuses to adopt the proposed amendments, the governor can either approve or veto the bill. The legislature can override all gubernatorial vetoes by a vote of two-thirds of members present at the voting in each house, provided that the two-thirds majority constitutes a simple majority of the elected membership.
Other elected officials are the lieutenant governor and the attorney general. Both serve four-year terms and may succeed themselves in office.
The state legislature, called the General Assembly and the oldest representative legislative body in the United States, consists of a 40-member Senate and a 100-member House of Delegates. State senators are elected for four-year terms, and delegates are elected for two-year terms. Regular sessions of the General Assembly are held every year, beginning on the second Wednesday in January; in even-numbered years sessions may last up to 60 days, and in odd-numbered years up to 30 days. In addition, special sessions of up to 30 days may be called by the governor or by petition of two-thirds of the members of each house of the General Assembly. Both regular and special sessions may be extended up to 30 days with the approval of a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house.
The highest state court in Virginia is the supreme court of appeals. The seven justices are elected for 12-year terms by the joint vote of the two houses of the legislature. The major trial courts are the circuit courts, whose judges are elected for eight-year terms by the General Assembly. Lower courts include the general district courts and the juvenile and domestic relations district courts. The judges of these courts are elected by the General Assembly to six-year terms.
The chief governing body in most of Virginia’s 95 counties is the county board of supervisors, whose members are elected for four-year terms. Arlington County is governed by a county board. Other elected county officials include a commonwealth’s attorney, sheriff, county treasurer, and commissioner of revenue, all of whom also serve four-year terms. A few counties have county managers or county executives, who are appointed by the county board of supervisors. Recent legislation allows localities to conduct a referendum to allow elected school boards, and the first such school board elections were held in 1995. All of the state’s 41 cities and some of its nearly 200 towns have the council and manager form of municipal government. Most towns, however, have the mayor and council form of government. Towns may be reincorporated as cities by the General Assembly when their populations exceed 5,000.
Virginia sends 11 members to the U.S. House of Representatives and 2 members to the U.S. Senate. The state has 13 electoral votes in presidential elections.
Archaeological evidence indicates that nomadic bands of hunters entered the northwest and center of what would become Virginia about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Later, attracted by the abundant fish, migratory birds, and other game of Chesapeake Bay and nearby river valleys, Native Americans created substantial communities in the eastern region that Europeans would call the Tidewater. These first inhabitants supplemented their diets by growing corn, beans, squash, and other vegetables. They also raised and smoked tobacco and developed techniques for building log canoes that whites would later copy.
On the eve of colonization, many different peoples had established a presence in Virginia. When the first English settlers arrived in Virginia in 1607, they interacted mainly with the Powhatan Confederacy, an Algonquian-speaking group occupying the coast.
|B||Explorers and Early Settlers|
The first European to see Virginia may have been John Cabot, who reached the North American coast for England in 1497 and may have explored it the next year. The Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano explored the coast for France in 1524. In 1570 the Spanish started a religious mission on the Rappahannock River near the site of Fredericksburg, but Native Americans wiped it out.
In 1606 King James I of England granted to two commercial companies the right to colonize Virginia, a name the English used broadly to describe the Atlantic coast of North America. One company, the Virginia Company of London, dispatched a fleet of three ships, the Susan Constant, the Goodspeed, and the Discovery, under the command of Captain Christopher Newport. The ships headed toward the general location of an earlier, unsuccessful “Virginia” colony, the Second Roanoke Island colony of 1587. The site of that colony is now in the state of North Carolina.
After four months at sea, the voyagers explored the coast north of the old colonial site and found the vast, attractive inlet of Chesapeake Bay. Entering the bay, they sailed up a river they named the James. In May 1607 they landed on a swampy peninsula and erected Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America.
The settlers could not adapt to frontier conditions and support themselves from the land. Starvation and illness took their toll. In addition, although most of the Powhatan had at first been friendly, they soon reacted to the settlers’ unprovoked attacks on them and began harassing the fort and ambushing foraging parties. The company, determined to profit from its investment, continually sent supplies and men to replace the dead and dying. Most of the newcomers—thousands of them—also perished, but the colony somehow survived.
Jamestown was first governed by a council of seven appointed by the company, one of whom served as president. These councilors failed to provide proper leadership, quarreling among themselves and plotting against one another. The election of Captain John Smith as president in September 1608 brought some firm guidance to the colony, but Smith was forced to return to England the next year for medical treatment of an injury.
Under a new charter, granted in 1609, the company replaced Jamestown’s council with a strong governor, naming Thomas West, Baron De La Warr, to the post. Sir Thomas Gates was dispatched from England to serve as deputy governor until De La Warr, who was buying supplies and recruiting more settlers, could arrive. On the way to Virginia, Gates’s ship was wrecked by a hurricane in Bermuda, where Gates and his shipmates spent the winter. Meanwhile, the 500 colonists in Jamestown underwent what they called the Starving Time, when most of them perished from hunger and illness. Gates built two new ships and finally reached Jamestown in May 1610. He found only about 60 settlers still alive.
Just as Jamestown was about to be abandoned, De La Warr arrived and reorganized the colony, imposing martial law. Starvation and disease persisted, but supplies and more colonists arrived and new settlements grew along the James River.
In 1614 Sir Thomas Dale, the acting governor, vitalized the colony by permitting men to farm for their own profit. Previously all property had been communally owned and agriculture was unsuccessful. Men turned enthusiastically to planting and, because colonist John Rolfe in 1612 had found a way to eliminate the strong, bitter taste of Virginia tobacco, the settlers finally had a source of wealth. Settlers began to grow tobacco everywhere, even in the streets of Jamestown. The marriage of Rolfe to Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan, the chief of the Powhatan Confederacy, in 1614 assured peace with the Native Americans for a time.
Another new charter, in 1618, laid the foundation for self-government. Under its provisions a two-chambered legislature, the General Assembly, first met in 1619. One chamber was the Council of State, appointed by the London Company; the other was the House of Burgesses, the Western Hemisphere’s first democratically elected body.
In 1622, Powhatan and Pocahontas having both died, Powhatan’s successor Opechancanough led an assault on the colony. The attack came over a 225-km (140-mi) front, and about 350 colonists were killed, including six members of the council. John Rolfe was probably one of the murdered council members. This so-called Great Massacre ended a plan by the colonists to convert and educate the Native Americans. The colonists began a war of extermination against them.
|B2||The Royal Colony Period|
In 1624 the company was dissolved and Virginia was made a royal colony, ruled by a governor appointed by the king of England. At that time Virginia claimed territory from present-day Pennsylvania to Florida and west to the Pacific Ocean. Very little of that claimed area was actually controlled or even explored. In 1629 the southern part was granted to another proprietor and named Carolana; in 1665 the grant was expanded to include—as Carolina—all the land south of Currituck Inlet. In 1632 Lord Baltimore received the area north of the Potomac River as a proprietorship. The Virginians were incensed by the grant to Lord Baltimore and, for this and other provocations, rose against their tyrannical governor, Sir John Harvey. He was arrested and deported to England, but was reinstated in 1637.
Opechancanough and the Powhatan made another synchronized assault in 1644 and killed about 500 settlers. However, the English ultimately captured Opechancanough and brought him to Jamestown, where a vengeful soldier killed him with a shot in the back. His successor sued for peace and agreed to withdraw above the James and York rivers. As the English settlements grew, the Native Americans moved westward. Those who remained were put on reservations.
Virginia remained loyal to the king during the civil war in England, which began in 1642, and gave asylum to fugitive supporters of the monarchy, or Cavaliers, hundreds of whom settled in the colony. Virginia refused to recognize the new English Commonwealth government of Oliver Cromwell until coerced by an armed English fleet in 1652. When the Commonwealth collapsed in 1660 and King Charles II took the throne, he is said to have referred to Virginia as the Old Dominion in gratitude for its loyalty. That became Virginia’s nickname.
Charles’s colonial policy, however, soon generated grievances in Virginia. He strictly enforced the Navigation Acts, which restricted colonial trade exclusively to England. This severely limited the tobacco market, particularly affecting the small farmers in Virginia. In addition, Governor Sir William Berkeley failed to call elections from 1661 to 1676, thus keeping a small privileged group of older families in power without popular support.
In 1676 Berkeley refused to raise a militia in response to rumors that Native Americans were about to attack the frontier settlements again. The farmers organized their own militia under the leadership of Councilor Nathaniel Bacon. In June 1676 the farmers’ long-seething discontent erupted in Bacon’s Rebellion. Bacon and his followers deposed Berkeley, who was forced to flee, and burned Jamestown to the ground. The rebellion collapsed when Bacon died unexpectedly of fever. Berkeley returned to power and hanged many of Bacon’s followers without trial. Berkeley was succeeded by a number of governors who staunchly supported royal policies.
|C||The 18th Century|
|C1||Prosperity and Expansion|
In 1700 Virginia’s capital was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg. During the 18th century the tobacco industry flourished, based on the use of black slaves. By 1700 Virginia was the largest English colony, with a population of about 58,000.
Tobacco exhausts the soil after several crops, and the constant need for new land to replace exhausted soil encouraged a slow movement westward. This movement was quickened by the arrival of new immigrants from Europe and by the exodus from the Tidewater region of small farmers, who could not compete with the large tobacco plantations and their slave labor.
In 1716 Governor Alexander Spotswood led an expedition over the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Shenandoah Valley. Glowing reports of the valley spread, and settlers moved in, many of them from Pennsylvania. Tidewater planters formed the first Ohio Company in 1747 to promote Virginia’s expansion. Settlers moved farther west, over the Allegheny Mountains toward the Ohio River, where they came into conflict with the French. Virginians took an active part in the French and Indian War (1754-1763) between France and Great Britain, and George Washington rose to prominence as commander of the Virginia forces.
The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended French influence in the area, but in that year Britain aimed at avoiding Native American trouble by barring white settlement beyond the Appalachian Mountains. The prohibition was generally ignored, even by Virginia’s governor, John Murray, earl of Dunmore. He started a retaliatory action, called Lord Dunmore’s War, against Native Americans who were raiding settlers in the prohibited area. The war ended October 10, 1774, with a victory over the Shawnee people at Point Pleasant (now in West Virginia). The battle assured peace along Virginia’s western frontier during most of the American Revolution.
|C2||The American Revolution|
Virginia, together with Massachusetts, led the movement against the unpopular actions of the British government that culminated in the American Revolution (1775-1783). In 1765 the House of Burgesses passed resolutions protesting the Stamp Act recently enacted by Britain. Virginians formed a committee of correspondence in 1773 to coordinate activities of resistance throughout the colonies. In May 1774 the House of Burgesses declared a day of prayer in support of Boston, Massachusetts, where the British had closed the harbor in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party, an incident in which colonials dumped imported tea into the harbor to protest a tea tax. Governor Dunmore thereupon angrily dissolved the legislature. The burgesses nevertheless continued to meet in a series of five state conventions without the governor’s consent.
The first convention resolved that a congress of all the colonies should be held. This first Continental Congress was convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 5, 1774. A Virginia delegate, Peyton Randolph, was elected its president, and Virginia played an important role in that and all subsequent congresses.
At the second Virginia Convention, in March 1775, Burgess Patrick Henry urged the raising of militia to fight the British; he exhorted his audience with a fiery speech that concluded with the famous words “Give me liberty or give me death!” Dunmore, alarmed, seized Virginia’s powder supply. A militia led by Henry forced the governor to pay for the powder. Dunmore then pronounced Henry an outlaw. Several weeks later, after the revolution had begun with the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, Dunmore fled to a British warship, ending royal government in Virginia.
The General Assembly disbanded itself, leaving the legislative power in Virginia to the Virginia Conventions—to which many of the burgesses were delegates. The Second Continental Congress appointed Virginia delegate George Washington as commander in chief of the combined colonial forces, which were designated the Continental Army. On May 15, 1776, the fifth Virginia Convention voted to instruct its delegates to the Continental Congress to support independence from Great Britain. In June 1776 the state adopted a declaration of rights and a constitution, the first such documents of any American state, and elected Patrick Henry as the first governor.
At the Continental Congress in June 1776, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced the motion for independence from Great Britain. Virginia delegate Thomas Jefferson was assigned to write the Declaration of Independence, severing all relations with Britain, which the congress adopted on July 4, 1776.
The early campaigns of the war were fought mainly in the northern colonies, but in 1779 the British took Portsmouth and burned Suffolk. Early in 1781 British forces led by General Benedict Arnold attacked Richmond, the new capital (since 1780) of Virginia, where they destroyed the public buildings and military stores. General Charles Cornwallis, commanding the British forces in America, began a campaign in Virginia in May 1781. The revolutionary cause achieved a crucial victory on Virginia soil when Cornwallis, after a long siege, surrendered his forces on October 19, 1781, at Yorktown to a combined French and American force under Washington.
|C3||Late 18th Century|
Virginia played a leading role in creating the Constitution of the United States, initiating the conferences that led to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Virginia delegate James Madison contributed so much of the substance of the document that he is known as the Father of the Constitution.
Because of Virginia’s size and influence, its ratification of the Constitution was essential. However, many distinguished Virginians, including Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, opposed ratification. After a long and bitter debate, the Virginia Convention accepted the Constitution by a narrow ten-vote margin on June 25, 1788, with the understanding that amendments would be added incorporating a Bill of Rights. Virginia was the tenth state to ratify the Constitution and therefore, the tenth to enter the federal Union. John Marshall, a Virginian who was chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1801 to 1835, strengthened the Constitution with his decisions. Also, four of the new nation’s first five presidents were Virginians: George Washington (1789-1797), Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), James Madison (1809-1817), and James Monroe (1817-1825). These men are sometimes called the Virginia Dynasty.
The Treaty of Paris in 1783 recognized Virginia’s claim to the vast Northwest Territory, which included the Great Lakes. One year later, however, Virginia agreed to surrender this area to the federal government. In 1792 the Virginia county of Kentucky entered the Union as a separate state.
|D||The 19th Century|
During the 19th century eastern Virginia suffered an economic decline. The planters tried to rejuvenate their depleted soil by switching from tobacco to general farming. Many farmers abandoned their fields, and the population of the state declined between 1800 and 1840. Because of its surplus of slaves, one of Virginia’s most profitable enterprises was selling them to slaveholders in the Deep South (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida), where there was a cotton boom. Cotton plantations used a great many black slaves. Slave insurrections, such as the one by Gabriel Prosser in 1800 and the one by Nat Turner in 1831, crystallized feelings over slavery and intensified differences with the western part of Virginia, where antislavery sentiment was strong.
|D2||Alienation of Western Virginia|
Small farmers in western Virginia grew increasingly resentful of Tidewater domination. Their demands for proportional representation, not satisfied by a new constitution in 1829, were finally met in 1851, when another constitution granted voting rights to all adult white males, reapportioned representation in the legislature, and called for the popular election of the governor, who had previously been selected by the legislature. By then, however, economic differences had split the two sections. In eastern Virginia, agricultural production had increased as a result of scientific improvements, the growing of wheat on a large scale, and state-financed construction of railroads, canals, and turnpikes that reduced transportation costs. Meanwhile, northwestern Virginia remained, for the most part, a land of small, semi-isolated farms, with an emerging commercial and industrial center on the Ohio River at Wheeling. The lack of railroad links with the east forced the westerners to depend on the Northern states for transportation of their products. When Virginia followed other Southern agricultural states in seceding from the Union in 1861, the western counties took advantage of a long-awaited opportunity to detach themselves from Virginia, forming the state of West Virginia.
|D3||The Slavery Question and Secession|
Slavery was one of the most divisive political issues in the Congress of the United States in the first half of the 19th century. Many Congress members from the Northern states pressed to end slavery, both because it was considered immoral and because white labor could not compete with unpaid black labor. Members from the Deep South believed that slavery was essential to their cotton-centered agricultural system and that the North was trying to dominate the national economy. By the 1850s, Southerners saw their power slipping in Congress, calls for abolition of slavery were increasing, and many in the South came to believe that secession from the Union was the only way to protect “Southern rights,” including the right to own slaves.
Virginia was not as proslavery and secessionist as the Deep South. In 1832 an act to abolish slavery was introduced into the legislature by Thomas Jefferson’s grandson and was defeated by only seven votes. In 1859 Virginians elected a moderate, pro-Union governor, John Letcher, and in the presidential election of 1860 they failed to vote with the other Southern states for John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, candidate of a secessionist splinter group of the Democratic Party. Instead, Virginia was carried by the pro-Union John Bell of Tennessee.
Feelings against the North had been aroused, however, by abolitionist John Brown and his invasion of the state and capture of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry (now in West Virginia) in 1859. A detachment of U.S. Marines under Colonel Robert E. Lee put down the insurrection. Brown was tried by the state of Virginia for treason and murder and was executed.
Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860 as the candidate of the Republican Party, which opposed the spread of slavery. He received only 1.1 percent of Virginia’s votes, and most of those were in the western counties. The Deep South state of South Carolina had threatened to secede if the Republicans won, and in December 1860 it did so. Other Southern states began to follow, and war looked imminent.
The Virginia legislature initiated a peace convention that met in Washington, D.C., in February 1861, at the same time that the breakaway states were organizing themselves as the Confederate States of America. Presiding over the peace convention was a Virginian, former President John Tyler. However, the seven seceding states sent no delegates, and this convention was unable to achieve anything.
A Virginia state convention to consider secession met on February 13 in Richmond; on April 4, it rejected secession by a two-to-one margin. Later in April, however, after South Carolina fired on a federal fort, Lincoln called for volunteers to put down the “insurrection.” Virginians were outraged at the idea of fighting their sister states and refused to supply their quota. Feeling that there was no alternative, the Virginia convention voted on April 17, 88 to 55, to secede and join the Confederacy.
|D4||The Civil War|
Because of Virginia’s prestige, the Confederate capital was moved on May 21, 1861, from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond. The move was an error from a military point of view, because it placed the capital too near the enemy and made it vulnerable to attack. Virginia was a major theater of the American Civil War (1861-1865). The two largest armies were always on its soil except for two brief respites, the Antietam campaign in Maryland in September 1862, and the Gettysburg campaign in Pennsylvania in June and July 1863.
The 50 counties west of the Alleghenies remained loyal to the Union. They were occupied by the Union Army by July 1861, and formed a separate government. On June 20, 1863, they officially seceded from Virginia and began functioning as the separate state of West Virginia. This removed from Virginia one-third of its land, a quarter of its population, and most of its mineral resources.
The greatest Confederate victories occurred in Virginia, including the First and Second Battles of Bull Run (also called Manassas), July 1861 and August 1862; the campaigns of Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, May and June 1862; Major General Robert E. Lee’s defeat of the Union Army on the outskirts of Richmond in the Seven Days’ Battle, June and July 1862; the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 1862; and the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1863. However, Lee’s outnumbered army lost many men in bloody clashes with the Union forces of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant in the Wilderness campaign, May and June 1864, and the ensuing nine-month siege of Petersburg. Finally, driven from Petersburg and cut off from supplies, Lee surrendered his exhausted and starving troops at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
Another noteworthy Virginia battle was the naval engagement between the ironclad warships Monitor and Virginia (also known as the Merrimack) that took place on March 9, 1862, in Hampton Roads. In the Shenandoah campaigns of Union Major General Philip Sheridan, in 1864, the fertile valley was put to the torch and devastated. Much of Richmond was destroyed by fire during the Confederate evacuation in April 1865.
On May 9, 1865, Francis H. Pierpont, a pro-Union Virginian who had been wartime governor of the part of Virginia occupied by federal troops, was recognized as provisional governor of the state. After the war, President Andrew Johnson, moving quickly to accomplish the restoration, or Reconstruction, of the Union, encouraged legislatures of the former Confederate states to reconvene. Virginia’s full legislature met in late 1865 and removed the restrictions on voting by ex-Confederate officials and officers that had been imposed by the occupation government during the war. It refused to extend the vote to blacks, and it passed a broadly worded vagrancy law that severely restricted the liberty of the freedmen. This law and similar laws—often forming part of extensive Black Codes—were passed throughout the former Confederate states at this time and replaced the prewar slave codes as a means of controlling black people. General A. H. Terry, the military commander of Virginia, ordered that the vagrancy law not be enforced.
Partly because of these acts by the Southern legislatures, the Radical wing of the Republican Party in Congress wrested control of Reconstruction from President Johnson and imposed the harsher regime called Radical Reconstruction. Congress put all the former Confederate states under military rule, and in March 1867, Virginia became Military District No. 1.
A constitutional convention met in Richmond on December 3, 1867. It was dominated by Judge John C. Underwood and the Radical Republicans. The convention drew up a controversial constitution with two clauses that barred many ex-Confederates from voting and from holding office. When President Ulysses S. Grant took office in 1869, he was petitioned by a group of moderate Virginia Republicans, called the Committee of Nine, to let Virginians vote on these two objectionable clauses separately from the rest of the constitution. Grant persuaded Congress to allow this, the voters rejected the two clauses, and on July 6, 1869, the Underwood constitution was adopted. Gilbert C. Walker, a moderate Republican from New York, was elected governor. The legislature ratified the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution in October 1869, and on January 26, 1870, Congress allowed Virginia to reenter the Union. The most significant results of the Reconstruction period were the extension of the vote to black men and the rise of a statewide, tax-supported public school system.
|D6||Late 19th Century|
After the war, Virginia’s cities, industries, farms, and railroads were in ruins, and the people had little money with which to rebuild. In 1870 Virginia had 2 million fewer acres in cultivation than in 1860. The old plantation system was dead, and the system of sharecropping and tenant farming gradually took its place. This was a system whereby landless blacks and whites worked farms for landowners who lacked cash to pay wages. A sharecropper raised part of the landlord’s crop and was paid a share of the profit after deductions for living expenses, tools, and supplies. If there was no profit left over, the cropper had to get an advance from the landlord to keep going for another year. A tenant farmer paid rent to the landlord out of the profit from his crop and, if he had none left over, went into debt to the landlord or a local merchant. Because the prices of farm products went down after the war, there was usually little or nothing left over, and as a result most sharecroppers and tenants sank into an endless cycle of debt. Not until World War II (1939-1945), when widespread mechanization of agriculture made sharecropping unprofitable, did the system begin to disappear.
The state was saddled with a staggering debt, much of it dating from before the war. Bitter political battles ensued between a faction called the Funders, who wanted to pay the debt in full, and the Readjusters, who wanted it reduced or repudiated. The Readjusters, led by ex-Confederate General William Mahone, gained control of the legislature in 1879 and repudiated a large part of the debt. This brought protests and threats of legal action by creditors, but the question was finally settled in 1892 when the creditors agreed to a compromise. Further relief came in 1915, when the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that West Virginia had to pay its share of the debts incurred before it seceded from Virginia. Mahone built a powerful political machine—an organization to control party offices and patronage—within the Republican Party. It controlled the legislature until 1883. In 1885 General Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of Robert E. Lee, was elected governor and became the first in a long line of Democratic governors.
During this period, Northern capital spurred the growth of industry. Textile mills and cigarette factories sprang up, and the railroad system was expanded. New urban centers emerged at Roanoke, where the Norfolk and Western Railroad maintained its repair shops, and at Newport News, where one of the nation’s largest shipyards was established. Coal mines and sawmills played increasingly important roles in the mountain counties. Tens of thousands of workers found employment in Chesapeake Bay fisheries and in seafood processing plants. Nevertheless, the state’s population remained largely rural and agricultural as the 19th century drew to a close.
|E||Virginia in the 20th Century|
|E1||One-Party Politics and Government|
After defeating their Republican opponents, Virginia’s Democrats enacted discriminatory voter registration and election laws in 1884 and 1894 that enabled their party to consolidate its power. Completing this process, delegates met in 1901 to write a new state constitution. The result was a document, effective in 1902, that provided for a poll tax, literacy tests, and other restrictions that disfranchised many black and poor white voters—the groups most likely to vote against the Democrats. For the next half-century Republicans would win few elections outside the mountain counties, the only area where they retained considerable strength.
Meanwhile, Democrats were dividing into “machine” and “independent” factions. The better organized, better financed machine leaders—most notably U.S. Senator Thomas S. Martin—were generally able to control both the party and the state government. Nevertheless, the first decades of the 20th century witnessed the passage of many progressive reforms, including more money for schools, the creation of a state highway department, improved facilities for the handicapped and the mentally ill, prohibition of alcoholic beverages, new agencies to regulate corporations and to help farmers, and the use of primary elections to choose Democratic candidates for public offices.
After Senator Martin’s death in 1919, Harry F. Byrd, a wealthy farmer and newspaper owner, emerged as the dominant figure in Virginia’s Democratic machine (which came to be known as the Byrd Organization). Elected governor in 1925, he soon gained a national reputation for his conservative approach to state spending, his cost-conscious restructuring of government bureaucracies, and his use of gasoline taxes to finance a debt-free, “pay as you go” program to improve Virginia’s highways. Supported by rural voters and important business leaders, Byrd went to the U.S. Senate in 1933 and dominated Virginia politics until his death in 1966.
|E2||A Changing Economy|
Increased crop prices in the early 1900s brought better times for Virginia’s farmers, but manufacturers, bankers, and merchants enjoyed ever-growing influence. During World War I (1914-1918) the state became the site of many training camps and armaments factories, further accelerating economic growth. In the 1920s and 1930s Virginia became a major center for production of synthetic fibers (especially rayon), chemicals, and paper products. The Great Depression of the 1930s caused much hardship, but a relatively diversified agriculture and industries oriented toward mass consumption enabled Virginia to recover more quickly than most states.
The federal government has played a major role in Virginia’s economic development since the 1930s. Rapid expansion of government agencies in Washington, D.C., brought many new residents to suburban communities in the state’s northeastern counties. Also, World War II and the subsequent Cold War against international Communism resulted in billions of dollars in federal spending for ship construction and military bases near urban areas at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.
Tourism has become increasingly important as well. Opening in the midst of the Great Depression, Shenandoah National Park soon became a popular vacation site. The same was true of Williamsburg, where extensive restoration of colonial-era buildings began in the 1930s. Seashore resorts at Virginia Beach and theme parks near Williamsburg and Richmond have emerged as major attractions in recent decades.
These developments translated into improved living standards. By 1990 Virginians’ per-capita income exceeded the national average and was the highest of any Southern state. Another consequence of rapid economic growth was an increasingly urban population. More and more Virginians, along with many newcomers to the state, moved into metropolitan areas, particularly those on the “urban corridor” extending from the Washington, D.C., suburbs southward through Richmond and then eastward to Hampton Roads.
During the 1890s and early 1900s Virginians often seemed preoccupied with their historical heritage. Societies of Civil War veterans cooperated with the influential United Daughters of the Confederacy to erect monuments commemorating such heroes as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Care was also taken to ensure that the Confederate cause was favorably portrayed in public school textbooks. Meanwhile, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities worked to save and restore colonial and revolutionary-era buildings.
In subsequent decades these attitudes were gradually diluted—weakened by the deaths of those with personal memories of the Confederate past, by the movement into Virginia of many individuals from other states, and by the pervasive influence of externally produced, nationally oriented magazines, motion pictures, radio broadcasts, and television programs. The result was a more cosmopolitan society that was less firmly rooted in traditional values and beliefs.
|E4||Civil Rights Movement|
Racial attitudes, however, proved resistant to change. For generations black Virginians had confronted a system of segregated—and inferior—schools, libraries, parks, and other public facilities and services. Few could vote, and fewer still enjoyed any kind of political influence. When the civil rights movement gained the national spotlight in the 1950s and 1960s, the state’s blacks protested against racial injustice with sit-ins, marches, and support for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other activist groups.
White opposition to the movement was strongest in the state’s southern region, a traditionally conservative area where the black population was comparatively large. Even there, Virginians of both races avoided the violent clashes that drew national attention to Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi during this period.
Efforts to desegregate Virginia’s public schools provoked bitter controversy, nevertheless. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling against school segregation, in Brown v. Board of Education, Senator Byrd called for “massive resistance” to the decree. This defiant stance ultimately proved futile. Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., broke with the Byrd organization over the issue, and in 1959 several Virginia schools were desegregated. That same year Prince Edward County, in the heart of the southern region, closed its public schools rather than integrate them, the only county in the United States to do so. On order of the U.S. Supreme Court, Prince Edward’s schools finally reopened in 1964. Meanwhile, the integration of Virginia’s educational system proceeded, despite obstacles posed by the rise of segregated private schools and the movement of many white families from increasingly black inner cities to nearby middle-class suburbs.
The dominant position of the state’s Democratic Party gradually eroded after World War II. The liberal views of national Democratic leaders alienated many conservative Virginians, who began to vote for Republicans in presidential races. Indeed, from 1952 to 2004 only one Democratic presidential candidate (Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964) carried the state.
The long-entrenched Byrd organization faced mounting challenges as well. Voters in fast-growing metropolitan areas resented the traditional leadership’s old-fashioned, rural-oriented ways, and Democratic liberals as well as Republicans worked to exploit these antagonisms. The organization’s role in “massive resistance” generated additional unrest. Encouraged by federal abolition of the poll tax, moreover, many blacks and working-class whites registered to vote during the 1960s. The result was an expanded, more diverse, and less predictable electorate. Byrd’s death in 1966 was the end of an era. Deprived of his prestige and guidance, the organization collapsed soon afterward.
These developments set the stage for intense, sustained two-party competition. Republican candidates won the race for the governor’s seat in 1969, 1973, 1977, and 1993. Gradually adding to their membership in the legislature, they also displayed considerable strength in elections for Congress. Indicative of this trend, since 1972 Republicans have always controlled at least one, and sometimes both, of Virginia’s seats in the U.S. Senate.
Another noteworthy feature of recent Virginia politics has been the increased prominence of blacks. In 1977, for example, a black majority took charge of Richmond’s city council, which then elected that city’s first black mayor. In 1989 L. Douglas Wilder, a black Democrat, narrowly won election as governor. His victory over a white Republican made him the first elected black governor in U.S. history. Three years later black Democrat Robert C. Scott was elected to the House, becoming the first black to represent Virginia in Congress since 1891.
Women, too, began to exercise greater influence. Democrat Mary Sue Terry won the race for state attorney general in 1989 but was defeated by a Republican in the contest for the governor’s seat four years later. In 1992 Democrat Leslie L. Byrne captured a House seat, marking yet another break with Virginia’s male-dominated political tradition.
|E6||Government Policies and Priorities|
After legislative reapportionment in 1964, political control of Virginia shifted to the urban areas. This in turn resulted in a major expansion of the state’s education, recreation, and social welfare programs. Mills E. Godwin, Jr., who served as governor from 1966 to 1970 and again from 1974 and to 1978, secured legislative approval for a sales tax that helped to pay for a new community college system as well as improvements in an array of public services. Godwin also spearheaded the drive for a new state constitution, adopted in 1970 and effective in 1971, that contained provisions calling for quality education for everyone, consumer protection, and preservation of the environment.
Another consequence of this transformed political climate was the discarding of the no-debt, pay-as-you-go financial heritage from the Byrd era. State bond issues were approved under governors Godwin and Wilder to fund ambitious construction projects in higher education, parks, seaport development, mental hospitals, and other areas. Highways, airports, and metropolitan transit systems received top priority during Gerald L. Baliles’s term as governor (1986-1990), which also featured the establishment of a state lottery. Although otherwise hostile to so-called tax and spend policies, Republican George F. Allen, who became governor in 1994, urged a major expansion of prison facilities as a key element of an anticrime crusade. Republican James S. Gilmore, who succeeded Allen as governor in 1998, focused on improving education in Virginia and cutting taxes.
|E7||Virginia in the 1990s|
Despite remarkable progress, the state confronted significant problems during the final decade of the 20th century. Economic growth since World War II had been massive but uneven in impact, with northern Virginia and the Tidewater as the prime beneficiaries. Other regions, notably the rural Southwest and Southside, lagged behind. Across the state, suburbs prospered far more than inner cities, where unemployment, crime, drugs, and broken families exacted a demoralizing toll. Meanwhile, as new industries and businesses multiplied, older ones—particularly coal mines, commercial fisheries, tobacco farms, and cigarette factories—either stagnated or faced unpromising futures. Further complicating the situation, a growing number of Virginians questioned the wisdom of ongoing, ceaseless economic development, especially if it threatened Chesapeake Bay and other environmentally fragile natural areas. The 1990s also witnessed a widespread and deep-seated popular reaction against taxes, regulatory bureaucracies, and activist government.
|F||Virginia in the Early 21st Century|
Although Virginia continued to vote Republican in presidential elections as the 21st century began, the state’s voters elected Democratic governors in 2001 and 2005. Democrat Mark Warner won the state house in 2001, and he was succeeded in the 2005 gubernatorial election by Democrat Tim Kaine, who had been lieutenant governor. Kaine promised to address Virginia’s mounting transportation problems, which included traffic gridlock and a deteriorating infrastructure. In the November 2007 legislative elections, Democrats won control of the state Senate and made inroads in the House of Delegates, although the Republicans continued to control that chamber. The election gains were expected to help Kaine win support for his legislative program.