About: Roger

Roger has worked at the Library of Virginia since 1997 and currently works in the state records section. Roger has a Master of Arts degree in Public History from the University of South Carolina. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Millersville University.

Author Archives Roger

“You Say It’s Your Birthday:” Virginia’s Executive Mansion Turns 200


Governor's Mansion.

On 16 March 2013, Virginia’s Executive Mansion celebrated its 200th anniversary with a birthday party at the Library of Virginia.  The highlight of the event was a public screening of a new Mansion documentary, First House, produced by Blue Ridge PBS in partnership with Appeal Productions. The Library of Virginia and Citizens’ Advisory Council for Interpreting and Furnishing the Executive Mansion also published a commemorative book, First House: Two Centuries with Virginia’s First Families, written by Mary Miley Theobald. Out of the Box decided to jump on the bandwagon with a post highlighting some of the archival records about the Executive Mansion at the Library.


Plat showing Governor's House, kitchens, ravine, gardens and private property to be purchased.  Virginia General Assembly, House of Delegates, Speaker, Executive communications, Report, valuation, and plat, 1813 February 17. Accession 36912, State government records collection, The Library of Virginia.

The history of the Executive Mansion (also called Governor’s House or Governor’s Mansion) is well represented in the Library’s archival collections.  The Auditor of Public Accounts, Capital Square Data Records, 1779-1971, document the construction, furnishing, and repair of the 1813 Executive Mansion and the various buildings used by the governor prior to the Mansion’s construction.  The Drawing and Plans Collection includes a photographic copy of a page from Alexander Parris’ sketchbook depicting the floor plan for the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.  Parris designed the mansion in 1811-1812.  An Executive Communication to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, dated 17 February 1813, includes photocopy of a report from David Bullock, William McKim, and Robert Greenhow, … read more »

From Russia with Love: How a portrait of a Russian Ambassador came to be hanging in the Virginia State Capitol


Faux portrait of Captain John Smith as it appeared while hanging in the Virginia Captiol.  Note the plaque at the bottom of the frame.  Image courtesy of Special Collections, Library of Virginia.

In 1923 the Virginia General Assembly accepted a gift which would lead to an international investigation and administrative embarrassment 15 years later.  The gift was a 300-year-old portrait of none other than “first Captain and practical founder of the State of Virginia” Captain John Smith.  Or was it? The painting depicts a bearded man wearing a fur-trimmed hat and elaborately embroidered coat, flanked above by putti (chubby male children) holding pelts and below by snarling lions.  The portrait was presented to the General Assembly by 15 prominent Virginians including John Stewart Bryan, Fairfax Harrison, and Eppa Hunton Jr.

The portrait was purchased for $1,000 in 1923 through the London-based firm of B.F. Stevens and Brown, “experts in Americana.” The painting subsequently hung in the Governor’s Office, where it remained until the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Alexander W. Weddell, studied the painting while editing the book A Memorial Volume of Virginia Historical Portraiture, 1585-1830.  Weddell believed the portrait to be that of “the half-mad son of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, who was known to have walked about London in Oriental garb.” Weddell discussed the portrait with the director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, H. M. Hake, who found the original engraving which the Commonwealth’s portrait was modeled after–and it is of little surprise that it was not of John Smith.… read more »

Southside Burning!: Reformatted Recordings Preserve Historic Testimony

Editor’s Note:  On Sunday 4 February 2013, the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran a front page article on the 1963 Danville civil rights demonstrations.  The Library of Virginia has case files for more than 250 individuals who were charged with various offenses during these protests.  This blog post originally appeared in the December 2003 issue of The Delimiter, an in-house Library newsletter.  This entry has been slightly edited.

The fortieth anniversary of the 1963 Danville civil rights demonstrations passed earlier this year [2003] with merely a brief mention in the press.  In the summer of 1963, violence erupted in Danville, Virginia, as the Danville establishment led by Police Chief Eugene G. McCain struggled to keep Jim Crow order during a series of civil rights demonstrations led by local and national black leaders.  Of the 45 demonstrators arrested in front of the city jail on 10 June, nearly all required medical attention at the hospital for injuries that some defendants testified were the result of being pistol-whipped or struck with nightsticks.  As evidenced in the Civil Rights Demonstrations Cases legal files on microfilm and audio compact discs at the Library of Virginia, sporadic demonstrations continued until late August 1963 despite the violence.

In the late summer of 1999, the Danville Circuit Clerk of Court transferred the legal files of the Civil Rights Demonstration Cases to … read more »

Violence in Danville: Preservation of a Civil Rights Legacy

Editor’s Note:  On Sunday 4 February 2013, the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran a front page article on the 1963 Danville civil rights demonstrations.  The Library of Virginia has case files for more than 250 individuals who were charged with various offenses during these protests.  This blog post originally appeared in the Spring 2001 issue of The Delimiter, an in-house Library newsletter.  This entry has been slightly edited.


Protesters block traffic to protest segregation.1963 Danville (Va.) Civil Rights Case Files, 1963-1973. Accession 38099, Local Government Records Collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

In August 1999, the city of Danville’s Circuit Court Clerk approached Glenn Smith, Grants Administrator of the Virginia Circuit Court Records Preservation Program, with a dilemma.  The city possessed a box of heavily used materials relating to the 1963 Danville civil rights demonstrations.  Concerned about both the preservation and security of the collection due to high volume usage, the clerk agreed to have the material transferred to LVA for processing and organization so that it could be microfilmed.  Though a local records collection, I was assigned the task of processing the material because of my past research on John W. Carter, a former Danville city councilman who aided the Commonwealth’s Attorney in prosecuting the civil rights demonstrators.  I interviewed Carter for my thesis on the Virginia Conservative Party on several occasions.  This was a segregationist third political party formed in 1965 to oppose Mills Godwin’s campaign for governor.  Godwin had angered many by supporting Lyndon … read more »

Following a Northern Star: Exploring Abolitionist Materials with Mapping Technologies

Here in Virginia, there are some pretty strong views on history.  It isn’t merely in the past, it is occurring in the present as well.  This can easily perpetuate the stereotype that Southerners are still fighting the Civil War, or as it is known to some of my relatives, the War of Northern Aggression.  However, this view of history in the present tense can be put to good use to dismantle assumptions, rethink the past, and keep cultural institutions relevant.


Still from The Abolitionists on PBS, A Powerful Partnership scene depicting the first meeting of Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison in Nantucket. Garrison asked Douglass, How did you first realize you were a slave?

The most recent episode of The Abolitionists on PBS focused heavily on Frederick Douglass.  Reading his 1845 memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in school years ago was my first encounter with the realities of slavery, as I imagine it may be for many people. Somehow, seeing the scene in which William Lloyd Garrison, a prominent abolitionist, and Frederick Douglass first meet brought to mind again how wonderful it is to see these events and documents geographically located on the Abolitionist Map of America.  Zoom in on Nantucket, Massachusetts, and you can view the video clip from the series as well as contemporary photographs and documents. Somehow, plotting things on a map makes them more concrete, more believable, not just backstory.


The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper by William Lloyd Garrison, published in Boston. Virginia General Assembly, House of Delegates, Speaker, Executive communications, Correspondence and publications submitted by Governor John Floyd, 1831 Dec. 6. Accession 36912, State government records collection, The Library of Virginia.

As we continue this project, we are still uncovering relevant abolitionist materials at the Library … read more »

Mapping John Brown: How one man’s failed rebellion expanded the abolitionist cause


This photograph shows a rather more dapper John Brown than the later images and drawings, in which he appears disheveled and heavily bearded. He moved his large family ten times between 1825 and 1855, during which he was a devoted abolitionist and member of the Underground Railroad. As a failed businessman, Brown worked odd jobs while advocating for the end of slavery. Photograph of John Brown, circa 1850. Portraits Collection, Prints and Photographs, Library of Virginia.

In some cases, failing extravagantly can work in favor of your cause.  Go big or go home, as it were.  John Brown was an American abolitionist who supported the use of violence to end slavery.  A descendant of 17th century Puritans, Brown’s strong Calvinist beliefs would provide the moral inspiration for his battle against slavery.  As we saw on The Abolitionists on PBS last Tuesday, Brown made a pledge in 1837 that would steer his actions in the coming decades: “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery!”

Unlike most white, well-educated, religiously-motivated abolitionists, Brown did not believe in solely non-violent means to end slavery.  After the Fugitive Slave Act passed in 1850, Brown founded a militant anti-slavery brigade with the Biblically-inspired name “League of Gileadites.”  Their mission was to prevent the recapture of escaped slaves by any means necessary.  Rising tensions in Kansas compelled Brown to go to the aid of the anti-slavery settlers there, including five of his adult sons.  Pro-slavery forces known as “Border Ruffians” interfered with voting, imprisoned abolitionists, harassed free settlers, and eventually seized the town of Lawrence.  On 24 May 1856, Brown led a small group of armed men against their pro-slavery neighbors at Pottawatomie Creek, killing five.  This catalyzed a civil war … read more »

LVA Partners with American Experience to Populate the Abolitionist Map of America: Interactive Map Explores the Legacy of the Anti-Slavery Movement

How did views on slavery evolve in the decades leading up to the Civil War?  What different concerns did Quakers, soldiers, and revolutionaries express about the freedom of enslaved people?  Most importantly, what evidence can we find in the Library of Virginia’s collections about the anti-slavery movement in the early and mid-1800s?


The American Experience Abolitionist Map of America: dozens of cultural institutions have contributed historical images and documents

This unique challenge arose through the LVA’s early involvement in HistoryPin, an interactive website to which we upload geotagged photographs and other archival materials.  Each image is accompanied by descriptive metadata, but users can also add their own “stories,” allowing for multiple and personal interpretations of history.  Audio and video clips can also be pinned. Click here to see the Library’s  HistoryPin collections.

PBS’s trademark documentary series, American Experience, has partnered with HistoryPin to use this digital platform to tell the story of abolitionists.  The Library of Virginia was selected to contribute to this exploration of the anti-slavery movement in America—the Abolitionist Map of America.  Dozens of museums, libraries, and archives have contributed to populating the map.  PBS will also upload several video clips from their upcoming documentary series The Abolitionists, which will air on Tuesdays, January 8-22, 2013.  A mobile app and walking tours of Boston, Charleston, Cincinnati and Philadelphia allow users to explore the Abolitionist Map in multiple ways.


Above, one of the LVA’s most viewed pins, an anti-slavery broadside from 1859 in Lawrence, KS.

The abolitionist materials assembled by the … read more »

Happy Holidays from the Out of the Box Editors


Cover of the December 1938 issue of the Beacon, a monthly newspaper published by the inmates of the Virginia Penitentiary, Film 2319, Virginia Newspaper Collection, Library of Virginia.

The editors of Out of the Box are taking some time off for the holidays.  We’ll see you next year! In the meantime, checkout our letter to Santa post and a holiday post from our friends at the Fit to Print newspaper blog.

-Bari, Jessica and Roger… read more »

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The Legacy of Virginia State Senator William B. Hopkins


W.B. Hopkins, enlargement from The Senate of Virginia, 1976.

Former Virginia state Senator William B. Hopkins Sr. died on 11 December 2012 at the age of 90.  During World War II, Hopkins joined the Marines and saw combat in the Pacific theater of the war.  Hopkins, a Democrat, represented the Roanoke area as a state senator from 1960 to 1980 and was Senate majority leader from 1972 to 1976.

Hopkins’ service to country and commonwealth is well documented in the collections of the Library of Virginia.  A copy of his World War II separation notice is in the records of the Virginia World War II History Commission.  Numerous collections related to the Virginia General Assembly document his legislative activities.  Senator Hopkins is best known for chairing the Commission on State Governmental Management from 1973 to 1978.  The Commission, also known as the Hopkins Commission, made recommendations to reorganize and modernize state government.  “That’s what he was most proud of,” his son William Hopkins Jr. told The Roanoke Times, “the work of the Hopkins Commission and how it improved state government.”  The records of the Hopkins Commission, both published reports and 30 cubic feet of manuscript material (accession 29887), are part of the Library’s collection.  Hopkins may no longer be with us, but his legacy lives on at the Library of Virginia.

-Roger Christman, Senior State Records Archivist… read more »

“Woke Up Election Day”: The Virginia Electoral College


Governor Tim Kaine and First Lady Anne Holton with Virginia's electors, 15 December 2008, Office of the Governor.

On 6 November 2012, Barack Obama and Joe Biden were re-elected President and Vice President of the United States.  Or were they?  As we all learned in our high school government class, the President and Vice President are officially elected by the Electoral College.  Under this system, established by Article II and the 12th Amendment to the United States Constitution, voters in each state on Election Day are actually choosing a candidate’s slate of electors to serve in the Electoral College.  Under Chapter 1 of Title 3, United States Code (62 Stat. 672, as amended), the Electoral College meets and votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.  The 2012 Electoral College will meet on 17 December to cast Virginia’s 13 electoral votes for Obama and Biden.

The Library of Virginia has a variety of records in several collections (Secretary of the Commonwealth, Office of the Governor, Virginia General Assembly, etc.)  related to the Virginia Electoral College from 1789 to 2008.    Today, copies of the Certificate of Ascertainment and Certificate of Vote are transferred to the Library by the Virginia State Board of Elections.  The Certificate of Ascertainment lists the names of the electors appointed and the number of votes cast for each person during the general election.  The Certificate of Vote lists the totals for the Electoral College.  Additional records … read more »