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Tag Archives: Tidewater

- Bessie Miller’s Sad Summer Composition

Compostion book cover, dated December 1902. Brooks-Ellis Family Photo Collection, Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

The Library of Virginia recently acquired a family photograph collection identified as belonging to the Brooks/Ellis families. A composition book labeled “Bessie Miller December 1902” accompanied the photos in the acquisition. The notebook mostly contains essays on topics such as Julius Caesar and “The Seven Wonders of the World,” along with occasional transcriptions of letters to friends or relatives. One particular entry caught the attention of staff, a melancholy view of summer vacation.





The undated entry reads:


Vacation which always comes after a long tiresome spell at school as most children think it is most here[.] To most children it is a joyful time, but to me there is nothing sadder than the last day of school. This year most especially not knowing whither [sic] I’ll ever be at school again or not. Vacation always comes in the warm summer months when children need the most rest from study. During this time we visit our friends sometimes we spend evenings reading beautiful stories. It is during vacation that our flowers are in their most beautiful state and that our fruit trees are laden with the most luxurious fruit and our shade trees giving the most pleasant of shade. We will visit the beach and seashore[,] go on many pleasant picnics[,] have our childrens [sic] day and revivals[,] have our friends

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- “Soon, the grievance will cease to exist”: Chief Inspector of Vessels Reports

On 17 March 1856, the General Assembly adopted a law entitled, “An Act providing additional protection for the slave property of citizens of this commonwealth.” This legislation established a new inspection system to prevent the escape of criminals and enslaved people aboard commercial shipping vessels. All vessels bound for any northern port beyond the Virginia capes were subject to the inspection.

The Underground Railroad offered avenues to freedom for African Americans, some of which made use of Virginia’s extensive waterways. Free and enslaved African Americans provided an important labor force for the state’s thriving maritime economy. Employment along the busy wharves in Virginia’s harbors also presented enticing opportunities to escape. By the mid-1850s, many runaway slaves from the Hampton Roads area were suspected of escaping aboard ships destined for northern ports. One Norfolk newspaper described this alarming situation as “an intolerable evil.” Urgent pleas for a more effective system to stop these escapes were sent to Richmond. The General Assembly received strongly worded petitions from the citizens of Norfolk, Elizabeth City County, and Princess Anne County. These Tidewater localities wanted “additional legislation…which should clothe the Pilots of our state with power to search vessels, arrest fugitives, and should require every vessel bound to a Non-Slaveholding Port, to take a Pilot…to give us the necessary protection.” Soon, Delegate Francis Mallory of Norfolk introduced new legislation aimed … read more »

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