In his debut novel, Forsaken, Ross Howell Jr. tells the story of an uneducated African American servant, Virginia Christian, who was tried for killing her white employer in 1912. She died in the electric chair one day after her 17th birthday, the only female juvenile executed in Virginia since 1908. Howell researched the case using a variety of documents and images related to Christian’s execution found in the Library of Virginia’s collections.
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce a new digital exhibition, Forsaken: The Digital Bibliography, which spotlights the court records and newspaper stories used and referenced in the novel. Included are: the coroner’s inquest for Ida V. Belote; Virginia Christian’s trial, appeal, and clemency records; and newspaper coverage of these events from the Newport News Times-Herald and Daily Press.
As noted at the beginning of the novel, Forsaken is a work of fiction, but many of the characters were real people. Forsaken: The Digital Bibliography includes brief biographical sketches and documents related to these individuals. Also included is additional background material on other historic events referenced in the text, such as Nat Turner’s Rebellion and the “Allen Gang.” The epilogue focuses on what happened to the real-life main characters: Charles Mears, Harriet and Sadie Belote, Charles Pace, and others.
While by no means comprehensive (and very much … read more »
Posted in State Records Blog Posts, What's New in the Archives
Also tagged in: African Americans, capital punishment, Charles Mears, Charles Pace, Charlotte Christian, coroners' inquisitions, E.E. Montague, execution files, George Fields, Hampton (City), Harriet Christian, Henry Christian, Ida Belote, J. Thomas Newsome, J.B. Wood, Lewter F. Hobbs, murder, Virginia Christian
As a holiday, Thanksgiving has a long history in Virginia. Arguably the first Day of Thanksgiving intended to serve as an annual holiday was celebrated at the Berkeley Hundred plantation on 4 December 1619, although thanksgiving services were a commonality in all areas settled by Europeans. George Washington issued the first proclamation of a day of Thanksgiving under the new national government in 1789, following up with a second Thanksgiving proclamation in 1795. It was under President Abraham Lincoln that the day became a true federal holiday; Lincoln was prompted by a series of editorials and letters written by Sarah Josepha Hale to proclaim the final Thursday in November 1863 as the national Thanksgiving Day.
In the years following 1863, presidents followed Lincoln’s example and proclaimed the final Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. State governors would also issue Thanksgiving proclamations for their individual states. The Library of Virginia has several examples of proclamation issued by Governors McKinney, O’Ferrall, and Tyler between 1893 and 1898. In these proclamations, governors encouraged citizens to gather with their friends and families, do “some good deed,” and to help those less fortunate by “brining comfort and happiness to homes and hearts that have been darkened by adversity.” The governors reference national events such as the Spanish-American War and the Panic of 1896, praising the “wonderful courage and firmness” of … read more »
September 2015 marks the ten year anniversary of web archiving at the Library of Virginia. In the fall of 2005, the Library partnered with the Internet Archive for a pilot program using their new web archiving tool, Archive-It (AI). The pilot program ran from September to November 2005 and captured the websites of Governor Mark Warner’s administration, campaign web sites for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and selected Virginia political blogs. After the successful completion of the pilot program, the Library used funding provided by Congress for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) to subscribe to Archive-It. Over the past ten years, the Library has created 21 collections containing over 3000 URLS and has crawled over 89 million documents and 5.1 terabytes of data. Following the Library’s web archiving collection guidelines, the Virginia Web Archive includes the web content of Virginia State Government and Virginia’s political leaders.
Some notable collections include:
This collection preserves the web sites that document Virginia’s November 2005 state-wide election. Included are former Governor Mark Warner’s website, the first lady’s website, the Virginia Democratic and Republican Party websites, as well as sites for the candidates for the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. Also included are blogs related to the election, websites of cabinet secretaries, and sites for Warner
… read more »
This is the tenth in a series of posts spotlighting recently released email from Governor Tim Kaine’s administration. These posts are not meant to be comprehensive but to encourage further exploration in the Kaine administration records (electronic and paper).
This week marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in Louisiana. The costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, Katrina caused widespread damage from Texas to Florida. The storm surge breached the levee system surrounding New Orleans, flooding most of the city and the surrounding parishes. The Kaine email collection would be the last place one would expect to find records related to the aftermath of the destruction in Louisiana, given that Tim Kaine was not governor in 2005. However, the Kaine email collection includes the email of William H. Leighty, who served as chief of staff to Governor Mark Warner (2002-2006) and held the same position under Governor Kaine (2006-2007). On 1 September 2005, Governor Warner dispatched Leighty and Policy Aide Ryan Childress to Louisiana for two weeks to coordinate state-to-state assistance and supplementing the relief operations of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Leighty’s email dispatches document their travel to Louisiana, Leighty’s responsibilities, clashes with the federal government, and their work assisting fire fighters.
Leighty traveled to Baton Rouge at the suggestion of Governor Warner and at … read more »
Twenty years ago, a small group of businessmen and former diplomats conceived a plan to build an authentic replica of the French frigate Hermione, the ship that carried Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, to America in 1780 with the news of French support for the American Revolution. The group hoped that this project would rekindle close ties between France and the United States, create a lasting educational legacy, and bring life to both Lafayette’s memory and the spirit of liberty that he embodied. The reconstructed Hermione is now a reality and the tall ship is currently en route to the United States, where it will visit twelve ports along the Eastern Seaboard over the course of the summer. Hermione will be docked at Yorktown from 5-7 June, and Alexandria from 10-12 June, and the public are invited to the festivities. A schedule of tours and events can be found at http://hermione2015.com/voyage2015/.
Lafayette played a crucial role in American and Virginia history. Without his dedication to the cause of independence and his ability to persuade others to provide much needed financial and military resources, the outcome of the American Revolution might have been very different. “The moment I heard of America, I lov’d her,” Lafayette recalled in 1778, a year after he set sail from France to … read more »
In 1883, the year when Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solved the case of the Speckled Band, an equally baffling real-life killing drew another noted team of detectives to the Western Lunatic Asylum (later renamed the Western State Hospital) in Staunton, Virginia.
On the morning of 24 February 1883, just after receiving their regular liquid medications, seven male patients lost consciousness. Four died almost immediately, two died in the next three days, and one recovered. An eighth patient vomited and experienced other ill effects, but recovered in a few days. A coroner’s inquest concluded that the victims’ cups of medicine must have been poisoned while sitting in an unlocked hall cabinet the previous evening. Other patients, taking the same medicine which had not been left in the cabinet, had no problems. Dr. W.W.S. Butler, head pharmacist at the asylum, testified that no poisons were missing from the dispensary. Autopsies were performed, and University of Virginia chemistry professor John W. Mallet used the latest forensic techniques to analyze three of the victims’ stomachs and their contents. Mallet concluded that the poison used was aconitia (also known as aconitine), an extremely toxic extract of the aconite or monkshood plant, and the coroner’s jury agreed. The asylum pharmacy had a bottle of highly diluted “tincture of aconite,” but Mallet thought it was not strong enough to … read more »
Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. Dr. Robert S. Fitzgerald, the subject of this week’s post, was tried for performing abortions on three women between 1927 and 1937. All three died as a result of Fitzgerald’s “illegal operation.”
Melva Victoria Royal was in trouble. The unmarried 18-year-old North Carolinian King’s College student learned in the fall of 1927 that she was pregnant. Melva wanted to terminate her pregnancy but didn’t know how. A North Carolina physician provided James Royal, Melva’s father, with a name of someone who could perform the operation: Dr. Robert S. Fitzgerald of Richmond, Virginia. On 10 October, Melva and her father arrived in Richmond and made an appointment to see Dr. Fitzgerald. After examining Melva, Dr. Fitzgerald, according to James Royal’s later court testimony, said he would not take the case for less than $200. Royal obtained the money from a local bank, returned to Fitzgerald’s office at 6 p.m., and paid him. Fitzgerald told James Royal take a walk for about half an hour. When he returned, Melva was asleep. At 8:30 p.m. the Royals took a cab to their place of lodging. Melva complained that she did not feel well. At 9 a.m. on 11 October, Royal entered his … read more »
Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. Benjamin Liverman, the “Boy Bandit,” the subject of this week’s post, was first arrested at the age of ten. By the age of 17, he had a lengthy criminal record. His life of crime and the beginning of his reformation began in Norfolk in 1923 when he was convicted of robbery and sentenced to 53 years in the penitentiary.
Benjamin Liverman was born Donatto Siravo on 28 February 1905 in Fall River, Massachusetts. The son of Italian immigrants, Siravo did not have a good home life. According to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, Alfred Siravo, Donatto’s father, worked as a weaver in Fall River. He was “quick tempered and very emotional and is blamed for much of the [couple's] marital troubles.” In September 1915, Siravo, only ten years old, began his life of crime when he was arrested in Fall River for trespassing. Over the next six years, Siravo, still a minor, was arrested nine times and served time in the Lyman School for Boys and the Shirley Industrial School. He escaped the Shirley Industrial School on 9 January 1922 and made his way to Norfolk, Virginia, by November 1922. Over the next two months, Siravo, using the alias … read more »
This is the seventh in a series of posts spotlighting recently released email from Governor Tim Kaine’s administration. These posts are not meant to be comprehensive but to encourage further exploration in the Kaine administration records (electronic and paper).
The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the release of an additional 15,381 emails from the administration of Governor Timothy M. Kaine (2006-2010). This batch comprises email from individuals in Kaine’s Office of the Secretary of Technology. Since January 2014, the Library has made 130,644 emails from the Kaine administration freely available online.
Aneesh Chopra held the position of secretary of technology for the vast majority of the Kaine administration. In this role, Chopra focused on a number of different areas. The following are but a few examples of the kinds of things that Chopra worked on during his time as secretary. For the complete picture, you will need to jump into the collection and start digging.
The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA)-Northrup Grumman partnership was created during the administration of Governor Mark Warner (2002-2006) but it came fully into being during the administration of Governor Kaine. As the secretary of technology, Chopra had to deal with the issues surrounding the full implementation of the plan and smooth over the concerns of state agencies and local government.
As the state’s expert in all … read more »
Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. Ernest Harper, the subject of this week’s post, brutally murdered an unrequited love interest and was sentenced to 20 years in the penitentiary. Eighteen months into his sentence, Harper escaped in dramatic fashion and was never recaptured.
On Thursday morning, 2 November 1922, Ernest Harper, armed with a revolver, burst into the room of Mrs. Alice Moore in Norfolk. He shot Moore seven times, emptying his weapon; she was able to run down the stairs but died in the doorway. Harper was quickly captured. His motive was jealousy. Harper had fallen in love with Moore, who was estranged from her husband, Luther Moore. Alice rejected Harper’s advances and the Moores had recently reconciled. After learning the news, Harper shot Moore in a jealous rage. In May 1923, Harper was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in the Virginia Penitentiary.
Upon Harper’s arrival at the Penitentiary on 23 May 1923, he was placed in the cell of Frank McGee, who was serving a 15-year sentence for housebreaking. The two cell mates planned one of the most sensational and well-planned escapes in penitentiary history. “Eighteen inches of steel-re-enforced concrete, a three-quarters of an inch steel plate, … read more »