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Category Archives: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

- Poe, Richmond, and the Universe

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with Virginia Humanities, sponsors residential fellows during the academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Richard Kopley, Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus, Penn State DuBois, spent the autumn researching and writing for an upcoming biography, Thoughts on Poe. The 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth will be on 19 January 2019.

I had begun a biography of Edgar Allan Poe, covering his time with his parents, actors Elizabeth Arnold Poe and David Poe, in Boston and New York—then with Elizabeth Arnold Poe alone in Charleston, Norfolk, and Richmond—and finally with foster parents John and Frances Allan after Mrs. Poe died in Richmond. John Allan, a partner in the mercantile firm of Ellis & Allan, later took the family to London to establish a branch called Allan & Ellis. The Allans returned to Richmond when the Panic of 1819, and more particularly, tobacco mania destroyed Allan & Ellis and threatened the entire firm. My recent time at the Library of Virginia was devoted principally to that period after their return to Richmond in 1820. I can offer as a sample of my research a newspaper find of cosmic proportions.

Poe probably had access to a telescope at the Dubourg school in London, where he studied in 1816 and 1817. His foster father … read more »

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- “Will there come a time when the memories fade?”: Song, Memory, and Stonewall Country

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with Virginia Humanities, sponsors residential fellows during the academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Nicole Maurantonio, an associate professor of Rhetoric & Communication Studies at the University of Richmond, spent the year researching and writing Changing Hearts & Minds: Memory, Race, and the Confederacy in 21st Century Richmond.

As I walked out one evening

To breathe the air and soothe my mind,

I thought of friends and the home I had,

And all those things I left behind

 …

Will there come a time when the memories fade.

And pass on with the long, long years,

When the ties no longer bind?

Lord save me from this darkest fear.

Don’t let me come home a stranger,

I couldn’t stand to be a stranger.

 

The first time I heard Jerome Clark and Robin Williams’s song “Don’t Let Me Come Home a Stranger,” I was captivated. My fascination did not stem from the song’s haunting lyrics and soothing folk guitar. Rather, I was struck by the song’s context: “Don’t Let Me Come Home a Stranger” was sung as part of Donald H. Baker’s musical Stonewall Country, as a soldier’s meditation on the vagaries of the American Civil War. Stonewall Country, described by critics as “a history lesson … read more »

Also posted in Civil War-Related Posts, Special Collections/Rare Books
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- “The Body of an Infant There and Then Laying Dead”: Infanticide in Coroner’s Inquisitions At The Library of Virginia





Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with
Virginia Humanities, sponsors residential fellows during the academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Kristen Green, an independent author whose previous work was Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County, spent the year researching and writing The Devil’s Half-Acre.

A newborn girl smothered just after birth. A baby girl killed after being struck on the forehead and above the mouth with a brick. An infant boy strangled to death.

All three cases of infanticide were the subject of coroner’s inquisitions in Henrico County in the 1830s and 1840s– and in all three cases, the victims were born to enslaved women and therefore were also enslaved. Virginia law stipulated that the slave status of the babies followed that of their mothers.

When juries were assembled to investigate the three suspicious deaths, each one pointed the finger at the enslaved mother of the baby.

Perusing the Library’s digital collection of inquisitions from around the Commonwealth, I was drawn to these stories of dead babies and the enslaved women investigated for murdering them. Coroner’s inquisitions are county investigations into deaths that are violent, unnatural, or suspicious, and juries are assembled to determine how the person was killed and by whom. The inquisitions, which exist from 1789 to 1942 for Henrico … read more »

Also posted in Local Records Blog Posts
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- Higher Aim: Guns, Safety and Healing in the Era of Mass Shootings



Release of Virginia Tech Panel Report, Patrick Henry Building, Richmond, Virginia, 30 August 2007, Office of the Governor.

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with the
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, sponsored four residential fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Tom Kapsidelis, an independent author and former editor for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, spent the spring semester researching and writing Higher Aim: Guns, Safety and Healing in the Era of Mass Shootings.

On one of the last days of my fellowship at the Library in July 2017, I peeked at a lock of John Randolph’s hair, read a letter from Ida Tarbell to Joseph Bryan about the aftermath of the Civil War, and delved further into Kaine administration archives and records on the 16 April 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. It was the collection of the Governor Timothy M. Kaine records that attracted me to the library as part of my yearlong fellowship with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH), the first semester in Charlottesville and the second here at the Library. The VFH has supported my continuing work on a book that examines some of the issues in the decade after the shootings, primarily through the experiences of survivors and others in the community who were deeply affected.

Over the past seven months I’ve peppered my office neighbors Brent Tarter, John Deal and Mari Julienne with questions about … read more »

- Jailing the Jerkers



Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church, Rockbridge County, National Register Nomination, Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources, http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Counties/Rockbridge/TimberRidgePresChurch_photo.htm, accessed 20 June 2017.

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with the
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, sponsored four residential fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Doug Winiarski, Religious Studies professor at the University of Richmond, spent the spring semester researching and writing Shakers, Jerkers & the Shawnee Prophet: Religious Encounters on the Early American Frontier, 1805-1815.

Samuel Houston probably scoffed at the legal proceedings against him as he stood before the bar in the Lexington, Virginia, courthouse on 6 August 1805. How could his peers on the grand jury take this case of assault and battery seriously? After all, he was one of the most prominent men in the Rockbridge County: a decorated Revolutionary War officer, a wealthy planter, and a slaveholder. Most important, Houston was a devoted member and patron of the Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church, the handsome stone edifice that stood only a few yards from his imposing log house.

The charges against Houston stemmed from a bizarre new religious phenomenon known as “the jerks”: involuntary convulsions, in which the subjects’ heads lashed violently backward and forward in quick succession like a “flail in the hands of a thresher.” The strange bodily fits erupted unexpectedly during the Great Revival (1799–1805), the powerful succession of Presbyterian sacramental festivals and Methodist camp meetings that … read more »

Also posted in Local Records Blog Posts
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- “A Frolicsome Freak of Boyhood”



Jacket of Application for Pardon of James Gibson, Charles Tosh, John Lyle, James Allen, Rufus Percival, and David Austin. Secretary of the Commonwealth, Executive Papers, 1876, June 20-September 1876, Box 48, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with the
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, sponsored four residential fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Catherine Jones, associate professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, spent the fall semester researching and writing, Child Prisoners and the Limits of Citizenship in the New South.

On 22 September 1876, Governor James L. Kemper issued a conditional pardon to six inmates housed at the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond. He explained his action by noting that all but one was “under seventeen years of age.” Further, he characterized the boys’ actions—stealing and consuming food from a hotel dining room—as an “impulsive and frolicsome freak of boyhood.”  Kemper’s pardon and the appeals that prompted it, shed light on a tricky question— what did age mean to Virginians in the nineteenth century, particularly as it related to criminal responsibility?


Entry for James Gibson, John Lyle, Rufus Percival, James Allen, and David Austin, 11 May 1876, Prisoner Register No. 5, 1876-1884, page 59, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Subseries A. Registers, Miscellaneous Reel 5990, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, LIbrary of Virginia (part one).

The Virginians pardoned by the Governor—James Gibson, Charles Tosh, John Lyle, Rufus Percival, James Allen, and David Austin—were committed to the penitentiary on 11 May 1876. The Wythe County Court had sentenced the youths to five years in the penitentiary for burglary and theft of food valued at under $9. These six young prisoners became part of a penitentiary population that grew rapidly between the end of the … read more »

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