From the Virginia Museum of Veiled History, Winchester VA
Larry Lamar Yates, Proprietor
July 01, 1915
Proclaimed by Woodrow Wilson, the National Negro Exposition was held in Richmond July 5-25 1915 to commemorate the accomplishments of African- Americans during the fifty years since the abolition of slavery. The exposition at the Virginia State Fairgrounds featured works from African American schools, clubs, and organizations from more than twelve states. The Negro Historical and Industrial Organization, led by Richmond lawyer and Black community leader Giles Jackson, got support from U.S. Senator Thomas Martin, then the head of the Democratic Party machine, for federal funding for the Exposition. Jackson was an attorney and banker, and was personally and politically close to Booker T. Washington.
July 2, 1861
Meeting in Wheeling (now West Virginia), the General Assembly of the Reorganized Government of Virginia heard from the governor of the Reorganized Government, Francis Pierpont, whose message included these words: “There is only one question now for each American citizen to decide in this controversy: Do you desire to stand by, and live under, the Constitution which has contributed so long and so greatly to the happiness and prosperity of the people, and to transmit its blessings to our prosperity? Or, do you desire the Union broken up, and an oligarchy or military despotism established in its stead? The leaders of the South are striving for the latter. The Government of the United States is exerting its whole force to maintain the integrity of the former. There can be no neutral ground. ”
July 6, 1952
Percy C. Corbin, African-American leader from Pulaski County, died on this date. A lawsuit he filed on behalf of his son, Corbin et al. v. County School Board of Pulaski County, Virginia, et al. (1950), became one of the lawsuits that formed Brown v. Board of Education (1954). A Texas native and physician, Corbin established his practice in the town of Pulaski, where he helped combat an influenza outbreak in 1918 and attracted both black and white clients. Corbin fought to equalize school facilities and was active in the local black community.
July 7, 1763
Lord Jeffrey Amherst was given the position of Governor of Virginia as a reward for his military service. However, he never lived in Virginia, and in fact when he was told he had to live in Virginia to be Governor, he refused to do so and lost the position. During his military service, in a letter to Colonel Henry Bouquet dated July 7, 1763, Amherst famously wrote “Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians?” It is not clear that his suggestion was followed up on, but he clearly made it.
July 7, 1790
The Virginia Independent Chronicle published an article defending the recently formed Abolition Society, signed “HUMANITY.”
Among the writer’s many counterarguments against the defenders of slavery, I like this one – “I will not dispute that slavery was practiced in former ages, for we have scripture authority that the Egyptians kept the children of Israel in that state; but I conclude the plagues and judgments which were inflicted on that account, will not make much for his purpose.“
July 11, 1870
The 1869 Virginia Constitution provided for the creation of the first statewide free public school system in Virginia. On March 28, 1870, the superintendent of public instruction submitted to the General Assembly a plan for establishing a public school system. On July 11 the legislature adopted many of his proposals. In the 1880s, there was serious political pressure to end the free public school system in order to have more money to pay the state debt, but the political rise of the Readjuster movement put an end to this.
July 13, 1749
The municipal government of Alexandria was organized where Hunting Creek flows into the Potomac – about where Old Town Alexandria is today. Sixty-six half-acre lots were designated for sale, with the buyers required to put houses on them within two years from their purchase. The town was named after the Alexander family, and they and other wealthy families from the area benefited from selling the land they already owned in the new town.
July 14, 1825.
The Jefferson Society was formed at the University of Virginia. Its members had broken off from the Patrick Henry Society because of its rowdiness. Edgar Allen Poe was briefly a member. The first public speech by a Society member, in 1832, called for the emancipation of those held in slavery. It was condemned by the University faculty, who decreed that future speeches should not deal with any “distracting question of state or national policy, or theological dispute.” The Society still exists. Its constitution now states that this once all white male group “does not discriminate in its membership or membership policies based on age, citizenship, color, disability, gender, race, religion, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation or status as a disabled Veteran or Veteran of the Vietnam era.”
July 16, 2009
The Richmond Times-Dispatch published an editorial apologizing for its role in the Massive Resistance to school desegregation, saying “the Times-Dispatch was complicit” in an “unworthy cause,” and that its sister newspaper, the News-Leader, “relentlessly championed Massive Resistance and the dubious constitutional arguments justifying its unworthy cause.” Despite the apology, and despite the News-Leader having gone away, many are unable to break the old habit of referring to the newspapers as the Times-Disgrace and the News-Liar.
July 17, 1843
The first class of the Farmville Female Seminary met this day. The Seminary eventually, after several transformations, became Longwood University in 2001. In 1886, the Commonwealth of Virginia established the State Female Normal School there “for the training and education of white female teachers for the public schools.” Continuing as a state institution, it changed its name to the State Normal School for Women in 1914, the State Teachers College at Farmville in 1924, and Longwood College in 1949.
July 20, 1776
The building of Black’s Fort, now Abingdon, began just as the Cherokee followed up on an ultimatum they had given white settlers to leave their territory. In alliance with the British, the Cherokee attacked settlements in Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina. Black’s Fort, however, was successfully defended against the Cherokee by the whites who had retreated there.
July 21, 1619
Voting rights in the Jamestown colony were originally granted only to land-owning men of English origin, ages 17 and over. Workers from Poland resented this, and went on strike. The Virginia Company recorded the following on July 21, 1619: “Upon some dispute of the Polonians resident in Virginia, it was now agreed (not withstanding any former order to contrary) that they shall be enfranchised, and made as free as any inhabitant there whatsoever …” What’s more, their skills were recognized as so valuable that the settlement called for the craftsmen to teach “some young men … for the benefitt of the Country hereafter.”
With the strike settled, the election proceeded.
July 24, 1840
Goodman Brown was born on July 24, 1840, in Surry County, the son of Herbert Brown, a farmer, and Parthena Bell Brown, both of whom were free African Americans. During the American Civil War (1861–1865), Brown served in the U.S. Navy as a cabin boy aboard the USS Maratanza. He was an ally of Readjuster leader William Mahone. As chairman of the Surry County Readjuster Committee, Brown used his relationship with Mahone to seek patronage positions for local men. He won the the local House of Delegates seat as a
Republican in 1887, but did not run again.
July 27, 1972
Two workers were fatally scalded after a routine valve adjustment led to a steam release in a gap in a vent line at Dominion Power’s Surry nuclear power plant. In 2016, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry reported that there were 8 fatal industrial accidents in Virginia, part of a “horrific” increase in fatal workplace accidents that year, but did not list the names of those killed or the dates of the accidents.
July 28, 1903
Maggie L. Walker established the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, becoming the first woman in the United States to found and become president of a chartered bank. She served as its president until 1931, and was a major leader of civic and faith activities in the African-American neighborhood of Jackson Ward.
July 30, 1619
The House of Burgesses — the first legislative assembly in the American colonies – had its first meeting in the church at Jamestown. Present were Governor Yeardley, Council, and 22 burgesses representing 11 plantations (or settlements).
July 30, 1940.
Responding to concerns about slum clearance and crime, as well as the need for war housing, Norfolk City Council voted to create the Norfolk Housing Authority. In Virginia, Redevelopment and Housing Authorities have power to sell bonds, to acquire land, and generally to change the face of communities, supposedly for reasons that benefit the community. Federal and state policies made it possible for RHAs to radically change many Virginia cities, demolishing traditionally poor and Black neighborhoods and enabling downtown retail and sports and entertainment facilities.