by Larry Lamar Yates, Proprietor
August 1, 1774
After the King’s Governor, Lord Dunmore, dissolved the House of Burgesses, all the members of that dissolved body met as the First Virginia Convention and took action to support the American Revolution.
August 1, 1791
Robert Carter III, who held the most humans in bondage in Virginia at that time, having “for some time past been convinced that to retain them in Slavery is contrary to the true principles of Religion & justice, & that therefore it was my duty to manumit them,” created a legal document that would over time free all of the people he enslaved, starting with the oldest, and each year freeing 15 people of the 150 he held.
August 1, 1851
The 1850 Virginia Constitutional Convention adjourned on this day, having written a constitution that expanded the vote to include all white men and that increased the representation of the western part of the Commonwealth. After the defeat of the Rebellion, African-American men also benefited from this broad suffrage, until 1902, when another Convention took away the vote from about half the men in the state, including many whites.
August 3, 1676
Nathaniel Bacon, an elite planter who pushed for a more aggressive and violent policy against all native peoples in Virginia, obtained the support of other notable Virginia gentry for attacks on Indians and for a rebellion against the royal Governor.
August 3, 1893
The Richmond Dispatch published an editorial defending lynching, and stating “Practically we cannot find it in our hearts to condemn the men who rid a community of one of those fiends who is ever sneaking about lonely country houses seeking an opportunity to make a victim of a white woman.” In a tone reminiscent of today’s right wing, they added that “nowhere that lynch law is discussed and denounced does anyone think of proposing to plead with the negro to forego his besetting sin.”
August 4, 1723
An anonymous letter by an enslaved Virginian reached the Bishop of London. It stated that the writer and others were being held in slavery by their own kin, that they were worked terribly hard and treated like dogs, and that if they were found out for sending the letter, “we Should goo neare to Swing upon the gallass tree.”
August 6, 1909
Rev. John Robinson, an African-American minister in Lebanon, Virginia, had his obituary this day in the Lebanon News. It stated that “he will be missed forever among his people as a leader. The white people will miss him for he stayed in his place as a man and gained many friends among them.” Exactly six years later, “John Hargis, colored,” also got an obituary, but a much shorter one, in the same paper, describing him as “an old slave darkey and held the respect of both white and colored.”
August 7, 1940
Odell Waller, a Black sharecropper from Pittsylvania County, was returned there to stand trial for murder of his landlord. He had fled to Ohio in fear of being lynched, and while he was there his case had gained the attention of the NAACP, the Revolutionary Workers League of the US, and the Workers Defense League. His case would continue to draw support from these and other groups, but he would ultimately be executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia in July 1942.
August 10, 1610
George Percy and seventy English settlers raided the Powhatan town of Paspahegh, where they killed approximately two dozen people, including the chief’s wife and her children. This incident marked a dramatic escalation in the first Anglo-Powhatan War.
August 11, 1761
George Washington advertised for the return of four men who had left his slave labor camp. Two of them had only come to Virginia two years before on a slave ship, and had escaped with a comrade who had been here longer but came from the same unnamed African country.
The Unitarian-Universalist Gay Caucus (UUGC) was formed in Norfolk, and soon began publishing Our Own newspaper, which provided information and inspiration to LGBTQ people in the Tidewater area and nearby until finally closing down in 1988.
August 15, 1906
The second meeting of the Niagara Movement, the first pro-active Black rights organization of the twentieth century, was held in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, chosen for the “sacredness of the location,” that is, its association with John Brown. F.H.M. Murray, an Alexandria Virgina activist, was the chairman of the Planning Committee. He was assisted by his wife Delilah, who headed the women’s organizing committee. Both Murrays spoke at the conference, and their son entertained with a cornet solo. Other members of his family printed the materials for the conference through the family printing business. Both a letter from W.E.B. Du Bois, who chaired the conference, and a local newsletter article acknowledged the vital role of the Murray family in the meeting.
August 15, 1926
Raymond Bird of Wytheville, a Black man who was in a consensual affair with a white woman, was accused of rape and held in jail. On this date, a mob of masked Ku Klux Klan entered the jail and took him out and tortured, mutilated and killed him. This was apparently the last public mob lynching in Virginia.
August 17, 1821
The Lynchburg Virginian newspaper, which had contested the claim, changed their position and supported the claim of Anthony Rucker to be the inventor of the James River batteau. These flat-bottomed wooden boats were key to inland trade in the early U.S., and were mostly operated by African-American men.
August 18, 1587
Virginia Dare was born on Roanoke Island, now in North Carolina. She was the first white kid to be born in North America, according to a lot of Virginians. In fact, a boy of Spanish descent was born in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1566, and was already 21 years old when Virginia was born. Who’s white?
August 20, 1619
“Twenty and odd” Africans are brought to Jamestown on a Dutch ship and traded for supplies. These were the first Africans to arrive in Virginia in this way. They are now believed to have come directly from Angola, and to have been exposed to, and perhaps even converted to, Christianity while they were there. (The Portuguese had been present in Angola for decades by that time.)
August 20, 1566
A Spanish expedition guided by a native of Virginia, Paquiquineo, known to the Spaniards as Don Luis de Velasco, sailed off the coasts of what would become Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Paquiquineo had left Virginia five years before for Spain and Mexico, and would not be repatriated until 1570, when he joined with his people to kill the Spanish expedition that had returned him.
August 21, 1734
William Gooch, governor of Virginia, granted 2,030 acres of wilderness to a British naval officer and speculator, who in turn sold it quickly to Jacob Funk, a German who had most recently lived in Pennsylvania. Funk’s family established the town of Strasburg, Virginia on some of the land.
August 21, 1867
Advice to Black people from the editor of the Valley Virginian, Staunton, Virginia
“There has been a great war between the whites on this Continent. They have lost, and you alone have gained. But once upon a time, the Indians, over a thousand to one, made war upon the whites, and where are they? There are 36,000,000 whites in the U. S., to 4,000,000 negroes. … there is but one course to pursue. It is the same you pursued during the war. Work and let white people settle this question–don’t vote at all. The only escape for you, from the fate of the Indian, is to make yourselves the best body of laborers in the world, and to avoid, by not voting, a conflict with any portion of the whites at present…”
August 21, 1831
Nat Turner, a slave in Southampton County, acted on his religious visions and the political ideas he had picked up over the years. He led more than fifty enslaved people in a rebellion during which more than fifty whites are killed. After being hunted and eventually captured by a 3,000-man militia force, Turner was executed, along with many of his followers and some innocent free African Americans.
August 23, 1833
Businessman Lewis Collier announced in the Richmond Enquirer the opening of the business he had just purchased, a “Negro establishment, which consists of a spacious comfortable strong jail, and which is convenient and suitable for the reception of slaves, as it is within a few yards of the Bell Tavern, where the sales of slaves are generally made.” The notice continued “I shall constantly keep on hand, for sale, a great many slaves; and gentlemen from the Southern States, or elsewhere, will do well to call on me, as I shall be able at any time to furnish them with a suitable lot, as I generally have on hand the use of one hundred…”
August 23, 1875
John Wesley Cromwell addressed the Colored Educational Convention in Richmond. These were his conclusions:
“…we find the first difficulty of Educating the Colored Youth of the State is caused by the fact that the state and local authorities do not always provide ample accommodations, sufficient facilities, or long enough terms for the schools under their control.
Second—That the great hostility to the taxation of the land. .
Third—That the general poverty of our people prevents them from giving their children the full benefits of the School system.
Fourth—That white Southern Teachers as a rule, are, by reason of many beliefs in which they are schooled, not the best teachers for colored schools.
Fifth—That the large and increasing demand for Colored Teachers suggests the maintenance of efficient Normal Schools. . .
Sixth—That certain false and wicked ideas. . . have been so widely spread… . shutting off opportunities for development and promotion.”
Cromwell was a lawyer, federal employee and newspaper publisher. His 1914 publication, The Negro in American History: Men and Women Eminent in the Evolution of the American of African Descent, influenced Carter Woodson, who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History the next year.
August 27, 1956
A special session of the General Assembly convened to consider the “Stanley Plan.” Though it was named for Governor Thomas B. Stanley, it was designed by Virginia political boss Harry Flood Byrd Sr. and his inner circle of advisors. The plan, referred to by Byrd as “massive resistance,” was also pushed hard by the Richmond News Leader and its editor, James Kilpatrick. Its key provision allowed the governor to close any school under court order to integrate and to cut off state funds for schools that might try to reopen. Other features included laws directed against the NAACP and other advocates of human rights.
August 30, 1800
Gabriel, a slave in Henrico county, plotted a rebellion for this date. Delayed by poor weather, the planned insurrection was betrayed by other slaves and failed. Around twenty-six slaves are executed for their involvement in the conspiracy. This was one of the largest planned insurrections in Virginia.