Jessica is the Senior Accessioning Archivist at the Library of Virginia. She holds degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Editors Note: This post is a modified version of an article that originally appeared in the Virginiana section of Virginia Memory.
The Watkins Family Papers (Accession 42063) include certificates, newspaper clippings, photographs, postcards, programs, and yearbooks documenting a prominent African American family in New Kent County, Virginia. While much of the collection consists of Jones and Watkins family photographs from Richmond and New Kent County, the collection is also significant for its connection to the struggle for school desegregation in Virginia.
Dr. George Washington Watkins (1898-1972) was born in Pickens County, South Carolina, the son of James and Lattie Watkins. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree (and later an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity) from Virginia Union University, and a Master of Arts degree from Hampton Institute.
Watkins is perhaps best known for his work in education, chiefly as principal of the New Kent Training School (renamed the George W. Watkins School in 1950). This school played an important role in the education of African Americans in the area and was at the center of one of the most significant school integration rulings to follow Brown v. Board of Education (1954). He was also a pastor, heading congregations at Second Liberty Baptist Church of Quinton, and Elam Baptist Church of Ruthville.
In 1930, there were 15 elementary schools in New Kent County, Virginia. Although … read more »
The fate of the Richmond Coliseum has been in question recently, with the city soliciting input from business leaders, local officials, and a consulting firm to determine what comes next for the much-maligned structure. Should the city continue to keep it limping along with costly repairs as needed, do a large-scale renovation, or demolish it in hopes of building a flashier replacement? Which of these options is best for Richmond, and where will the money come from? Alas, the Out of the Box bloggers can’t answer these questions for you. We can only lament on behalf of the near-40-year-old Coliseum, “What a drag it is getting old!”
Here at the Library of Virginia, however, there are reminders of how it all began, when the 13,500-capacity arena was the pride and joy of Richmond native and architect Ben R. Johns, Jr. (1922-2006). In 1968, Johns was tapped as the primary architect to work with the Philadelphia firm of Vincent G. Kling and Associates on the Coliseum project. While today the building has its share of detractors, back then it had at least a few admirers. As a result of the Coliseum design, Johns was recognized by the Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1974 and the Richmond Planning Commission in 1975.
In 2007, the year after Johns’ death, a collection of his business … read more »
“My health is so very bad that I do not know whether I will ever reach New Orleans or Cuba again.”
– Martin Duralde, Jr., to Henry Clay Duralde, 8 August 1846
“My cards are laying with the cock-roaches on the shelf.”
- Martin Duralde, Jr., to Allen Jones, 12 August 1846
Wracked by tuberculosis (or consumption as it was then called), 23 year-old Martin Duralde spent a month and a half during the summer of 1846 at several Virginia springs in a futile attempt to recover his health. As Duralde, the grandson of the legendary Henry Clay of Kentucky, traveled to the Blue, Red, and White Sulphur Springs of Greenbrier and Monroe Counties, (West) Virginia, he kept a letterbook that is now part of the LVA’s collection (Accession 22281).
Duralde’s companion for part of this trip was a man named L. H. Coulter, called “Old C.” in the letters. Travelling up the Kanawha River towards the springs, the two men stopped in a small town where they had heard that “there was a great superfluity of money.” While running a card game there, Old C. was caught dealing two cards off the deck and “ruined a fine prospect” of the two winning between several hundred and two thousand dollars. Their prospects didn’t pan out at either the Blue or Red Sulphur Springs and the … read more »
As I was inventorying a collection of federal records housed at the Library, I stumbled upon a box of papers that did not seem to fit with the rest of the collection. I pulled the box, searched our catalog, and found an entry for the microfilm copy of the collection (Henry A. Wise Papers, Accession 36084, Miscellaneous Reel 421). I then decided to read through the papers to see if I could enhance the existing catalog record with more complete information. What I found was a very interesting piece of United States and South American history.
Henry A. Wise (1806-1876) was born in Accomack County, Virginia, to Major John Wise (d. 1812) and Sarah Corbin Cropper Wise (d. 1813). A lawyer who trained under Henry St. George Tucker and practiced in Tennessee and Virginia, he served for 11 years in the United States House of Representatives. In 1844 he was appointed by President John Tyler as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to Brazil. During his time in this position, his somewhat overzealous and improper dealings with Brazil offended Emperor Pedro II and led to his being recalled in 1847.
By reading the notes and letters in this collection one can trace the escalating tensions between Wise and … read more »
Founded in 1928, the original intent of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ) was to promote positive relations among Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. Over the ensuing decades, the group had to figure out whether its stated focus on “the brotherhood of mankind under the fatherhood of God” also encompassed racial unity. Dissent and confusion within the organization led to a lack of clarity in the public eye as to its mission.
On 15 September 1956, Richmond Times-Dispatch editor Virginius Dabney (1901-1995) forwarded to longtime NCCJ Virginia Region Director Peter Mellette (1920-1993) this draft of a letter to NCCJ President Everett Clinchy. In it, Dabney pointed out the ambiguous implications of the word “brotherhood,” and cautioned Clinchy that the organization’s endorsement of racially-focused literature “can not fail to embarrass those of us in the South who are trying to work with you.”
Dabney was labeled a Southern liberal early in his career, partly because of his progressive views on race issues. By the mid-1950s, his interest in equality for African Americans was intact, but he favored a gradualistic approach. Interestingly, even as he advised the NCCJ to reconsider its message, Dabney himself was about to be limited in the full expression of his own views.
In 1956, Virginia embarked on the path of “Massive Resistance,” the state’s notorious attempt to thwart school … read more »