CHANGEMAKERS IN VIRGINIA HISTORY PROJECT IDEAS

Everyone has a story. Bring the stories of the past to life by participating in National History Day and Virginia History Day with the 2019 Commemoration. Every year, over 500,000 students take part in the National History Day contest. Join with student leaders from around the nation and participate in this one-of-a-kind program! Learn more about the program on the Virginia History Day website.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the 2019 Commemoration invites students to investigate the theme Triumph and Tragedy in History through the lens of Changemakers in Virginia History. The topics below highlight many of the stories that have changed the course of Virginia and American history. Happy researching!

Join the 2019 Commemoration and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture on October 11, 2018, for a Virginia History Day-themed webinar on "Changemakers in Virginia History." The webinar is designed to engage students with project ideas on Changemakers in Virginia history and help them get started on their Virginia History Day project. Students will develop their historic analysis skills as they examine different sources of evidence about Changemakers throughout history. The program will also connect to the National History Day 2019 theme, Triumph & Tragedy in History.

Register your class today!

ELIZABETH KECKLEY

In chapters 1 through 5 of Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, published in 1868, Elizabeth Keckley describes her years in slavery, her freedom, and her acquaintances with Jefferson Davis, Varina Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Mary Randolph Custis Lee, before going to work as a seamstress and dress-maker for Mary Todd Lincoln during the American Civil War (1861–1865).

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MARY DRAPER INGLES

In 1755 the French and Indian War gripped many parts of America’s frontier. But a small settlement in Virginia’s New River Valley seemed relatively peaceful for Mary Draper Ingles and her family. At least, until a warm, sunlit Sunday in July. On that day Mary began a harrowing journey that still captivates us today.

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ADELE CLARK

Adèle Clark was a founding member of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, the chair of the Virginia League of Women Voters (1921–1925, 1929–1944), the social director of women at the College of William and Mary (1926), a New Deal–era field worker, and an accomplished artist and arts advocate.

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ARTHUR ASHE

Arthur Ashe was a professional tennis player, broadcaster, author, and activist. Known for his on-court grace and low-key demeanor, he was the first black men’s tennis champion at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, the first African American to play for and captain the U.S. Davis Cup team, and the first black man inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

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COCKACOESKE

Cockacoeske, also known as Cockacoeweske, was a Pamunkey chief, and a descendant of Opechancanough, brother of the paramount chief Powhatan. After the death of her husband, Totopotomoy, chief of the Pamunkey from about 1649 until 1656, Cockacoeske became queen of the Pamunkey.

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ELIZABETH VAN LEW

Elizabeth Van Lew was a Richmond Unionist and abolitionist who spied for the United States government during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Leading a network of a dozen or so white and African American women and men, she relayed information on Confederate operations to Union generals and assisted in the care and sometimes escape of Union prisoners of war being held in the Confederate capital.

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BACON’S REBELLION

Bacon’s Rebellion, fought from 1676 to 1677, began with a local dispute with the Doeg Indians on the Potomac River. Chased north by Virginia militiamen, who also attacked the otherwise uninvolved Susquehannocks, the Indians began raiding the Virginia frontier.

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MAGGIE L. WALKER

Maggie Lena Walker was an African American entrepreneur and civic leader who broke traditional gender and discriminatory laws by becoming the first woman—white or black—to establish and become president of a bank in the United States—the Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond.

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LUCY BURNS

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the imprisonment of Suffragists at the Lorton Workhouse — a turning point in the movement to secure voting rights for all women in the United States — the Workhouse Arts Center is creating a new museum that will honor the unsung heroines of the Women’s Suffrage movement.

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OLIVER W. HILL

Oliver W. Hill was an African American attorney and civil rights activist. As the lead attorney for the Virginia State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Hill and his colleagues filed more legal challenges to segregation than any other lawyers in the South and successfully undermined segregation and discrimination in all walks of southern life.

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OPECHANCANOUGH

Opechancanough was paramount chief of Tsenacomoco, a political alliance of Virginia Indians, and famously led massive assaults against the English colonists in 1622 and 1644. The younger brother (or cousin) of Powhatan, who was paramount chief at the time of the Jamestown landing in 1607, Opechancanough was possibly chief of the Youghtanund Indians and, as such, protected one of Tsenacomoco’s most critical territories.

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PATSY CLINE

Patsy Cline was a singer whose biggest hits—”Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and “Crazy”—embody the so-called Nashville Sound, a synthesis of country and popular music. Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Cline began singing professionally to help support her family. She rose to national fame in 1957 after winning a talent competition on a television variety show by singing “Walkin’ After Midnight.”

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HENRY BOX BROWN

Henry Box Brown was an abolitionist lecturer and performer. Born a slave in Louisa County, he worked in a Richmond tobacco factory and lived in a rented house. Then, in 1848, his wife, who was owned by another master and who was pregnant with their fourth child, was sold away to North Carolina, along with their children. Brown resolved to escape from slavery and enlisted the help of a free black and a white slaveowner, who conspired to ship him in a box to Philadelphia.

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LOVING V. VIRGINIA (1967)

In Loving v. Virginia, decided on June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriages as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The appellants, Richard and Mildred Loving, of Caroline County, had married in Washington, D.C., in June 1958 and then returned to Virginia, where they were arrested.

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MARY RICHARDS BOWSER

Mary Richards Bowser was born into slavery and later became a missionary to Liberia, a Union spy in the Confederate White House during the American Civil War (1861–1865), and a teacher at freedmen’s schools. As a child, she was owned by the Van Lew family of Richmond; Elizabeth Van Lew, who had arranged for her to be educated in the North and provided her with de facto freedom prior to the war, ran a pro-Union intelligence ring in which Bowser played an important role.

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NAT TURNER’S REVOLT

On the evening of August 21–22, 1831, an enslaved preacher and self-styled prophet named Nat Turner launched the most deadly slave revolt in the history of the United States. Over the course of a day in Southampton County, Turner and his allies killed fifty-five white men, women, and children as the rebels made their way toward Jerusalem, Virginia (now Courtland).

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FORT MONROE

Fort Monroe is a military installation located in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on the Peninsula overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. It was the only federal military installation in the Upper South to remain under United States control throughout the American Civil War (1861–1865). Early in the war, the fort became an outpost of freedom within the Confederacy when Union commanders used it to house refugee slaves.

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