The Commonwealth
November 2010

Featured Lesson Plan: Virginia's Trifecta in the Revolutionary War

Henry, John, (1704 or 1705–1773). <em>A New and Accurate Map of Virginia Wherein Most of the Counties Are Laid Down from Actual Surveys: With a Concise Account of the Number of Inhabitants, the Trade, Soil, and Produce of that Province</em> 1770. G3880 1770 .H4 Voorhees Collection. Library of Virginia.

In keeping with our exploration of the new Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) requirements, we would like to share a lesson plan developed by one of the Library of Virginia's 2010 Brown Fund Teaching Fellows, Penny Anderson of Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg. Anderson used the Library's historical map collections to produce six fantastic lesson plans, all available at our Online Classroom.

The featured lesson plan, Virginia's Trifecta in the Revolutionary War: Identifying Three Major Turning Points in Virginia, investigates the question, "How did the Battle of Great Bridge, Jack Jouett's ride, and the Battle of Yorktown aid in turning the tables on the British during the War for Independence?" Both the Battle of Great Bridge (the first major land battle of the American Revolution fought in Virginia) and Jack Jouett's ride (from Louisa County to Charlottesville to warn Thomas Jefferson of the British army's arrival) are new additions to the Virginia Studies Standards. The plan is also useful in teaching Standard VUS.5, on the importance of Virginia's mid-Atlantic location during the American Revolution.

Using maps from 1755 and 1770, students explore the political boundaries of Virginia during the war and trace the movements of the Americans and the British during these three key events. Handouts allow students to illustrate those events on the maps themselves, and other activities include reading a poem about the ride of Jack Jouett and then writing a similar poem.

The lesson plan is at the Virginia Memory Online Classroom

The student will demonstrate knowledge of the role of Virginia in the American Revolution by
c) identifying the importance of the Battle of Great Bridge, the ride of Jack Jouett, and the American victory at Yorktown.

Essential Understandings                 

The Battle of Great Bridge was the first land battle fought in Virginia during the American Revolution.

The actions of Jack Jouett prevented the capture of key members of the Virginia General Assembly.

The last major battle of the Revolutionary War was fought at Yorktown, Virginia.         

Essential Knowledge

The Battle of Great Bridge was the first land battle of the American Revolution fought in Virginia. The American victory forced the British colonial governor to flee the City of Norfolk.

Jack Jouett rode on horseback through the backwoods of Virginia to Charlottesville to warn Thomas Jefferson, then the governor of Virginia, that the British were coming to arrest him and members of the General Assembly.

The American victory at Yorktown resulted in the surrender of the British army, which led to the end of the war.

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The 2011 Anne and Ryland Brown Teacher Research Fellowship

Open to Virginia 4th–12th Grade History and Social Science Educators

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the Anne and Ryland Brown Teacher Research Fellowship. The goal of the program is to enhance knowledge and training in history and social science instruction in the commonwealth of Virginia by providing educators with an opportunity for in-depth study and the development of teaching materials in collaboration with both teaching colleagues and members of the Library of Virginia’s professional staff. Under the program, Virginia educators research and study a specific aspect of Virginia history and produce educational materials such as lesson plans and curriculum guides based on the results of their findings. Over the course of two weeks during the summer and consultations throughout the year, the Brown Fellows will work with staff members of the Library of Virginia to pursue research on the year's selected topic. The Brown Fellows will also be encouraged to make presentations at educational conferences based on their research and lesson plans.

The Brown Teacher Research Fellowship includes:

Eligible candidates for the Brown Teacher Research Fellowship must:

Applications must include:

DEADLINE: Complete applications should be mailed to the following address by Friday, May 6, 2011:

Program and Education Manager
ATT: Brown Teacher Fellowship
Library of Virginia
800 E. Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219-8000

The award will be announced in June 2011.

For more information, please visit

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African American Trailblazers Essay Contest

Sponsored by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Library of Virginia, and James River Writers

In his memoir Students on Strike, which documents the 1951 student-led protests at R. R. Moton School in Prince Edward County, John A. Stokes writes: “It is important for you to realize that you did not get where you are by yourselves. The best way to get an understanding of self is to know where you came from and where you are going.”

How does the past empower you? What event or person from history motivates you to be a better person and a better citizen?

Elementary (Grades 4-5)
Middle (Grades 6-8)
High (Grades 9-12)

• $500 prize
• Essay published in Richmond Times-Dispatch,, Library of Virginia Trailblazer portal
•  Autographed copy of John Stokes’s book, Students on Strike

• $100 prize
• Essay published on, Library of Virginia Trailblazer portal 
• Autographed copy of John Stokes’s book, Students on Strike

• $50 prize
• Essay published on, Library of Virginia Trailblazer portal
• Autographed copy of John Stokes’s book, Students on Strike

December 17, 2010 – Entries due

February 24, 2011 – Winners announced at the “African American Trailblazers in Virginia History” Award Ceremony at the Library of Virginia.

Directions for Submission:
Entries may be mailed or emailed, no later that, December 17, 2010, at 5:00 PM, to:

African American Trailblazers Essay Contest
Marketing Dept.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
PO Box 85333
Richmond, VA 23293


Contest Rules:

1. All entries must be original works that have not been published or submitted for publication anywhere else. 
2. Entries must be received NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 17, 2010 at 5:00 PM.
3. No entry may be longer that 500 words.
4. Entries by contestants in the elementary category (grades 4-5) may be handwritten. 
5. Entries by contestants in the middle and high categories must be typed.
6. The title of the work, and the name of the writer, should be centered at the top of the first page of the entry.
7. All pages must be numbered. 
8. Entries will not be returned.
9. The Library of Virginia and the Richmond Times-Dispatch reserve the right to use the winners (grand prize, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places) names and entries for promotional purposes in all forms of media without notice, review, approval or compensation, except where prohibited by law. This includes the posting of submissions for public viewing and voting on the Internet.
10. Submissions will be evaluated for originality and adherence to the contest theme. Grammatical conventions must be observed. 
11. Judging decisions are final.

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Explore Time at Shaping the Constitution

We've recently added one more way to navigate through our more than 150 primary sources at the Web portal Shaping the Constitution: Resources from the Library of Virginia and the Library of Congress. A new Timeline of Events allows visitors to browse through events in Virginia and United States history relevant to the founding and ongoing shaping of our government and its seminal documents. Beginning with the founding of the Virginia colony, the timeline covers events through 2007. Included are birth and death dates for people featured in Shaping the Constitution biographies. Every event opens to a short explanation or links to an image or document in the Shaping portal. Now your students can browse the site chronologically to explore the contributions of Virginians to the nation. Investigate this newest tool available on our site!
Timeline of Events at Shaping the Constitution

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Don't Take Our Word for It!

Mike Hasley, a secondary social studies specialist for Henrico County Public Schools and writer of the prominent 21st-century teaching and learning skills blog The Henricus, recently paid us a marvelous compliment in his evaluation of the Library of Virginia and our online resources.

This September, Hasley suggested that the Library of Virginia should be considered a national library and commented favorably on our resources at, particularly the Virginia Chronology, This Day in Virginia History, and our Online Classroom, specifically Shaping the Constitution. He was also happy with the availability of RSS feeds to Virginia Memory and the fact that we have a Facebook page. He summed up his comments with, "So, for teachers in Virginia, the [Library of Virginia] in invaluable, whether online or in the actual building . . . But for those not in the Commonwealth, or near enough to Richmond, you’ll still find the online tools immensely useful, and easy to find." Read his full blog entry at The Henricus: New Approaches to Teaching Social Studies.

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Looking for field trip opportunities?

The “Union or Secession: Virginians Decide” exhibition opens on December 6, 2010.
The exhibition is free and open to the public during regular Library business hours. Group tours and related educational programs are available for groups by appointment.

As a complement to the Union or Secession exhibition at the Library of Virginia, the Virginia State Capitol Visitor Center is hosting the exhibition The Struggle to Decide: Virginia’s Secession Crisis. Focusing on the Virginia Convention of 1861, the exhibition will introduce some of the key participants in the debates over whether Virginia should remain in the Union or join the Confederacy. Visitors can also take a tour of the Virginia State Capitol Building, where the fateful vote for secession was cast, and which later became the home of the government of the Confederate States of America.

Both exhibitions feature elements created with young visitors and educators in mind. Special labels throughout the exhibition summarize the key points of the text so that school-aged children can follow the discussion. Visitors may also pick up activity sheets to guide their exploration of the museum.

To schedule a tour of the Library of Virginia’s exhibition, call our Tour Request Line at 804.692.3901 or use our Online Tour Request Form. To schedule a tour of the Capitol Visitors Center and Virginia State Capitol, call 804.698.1788.

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Educational Programs

Union or Secession

In addition to tours, the Library will offer Union or Secession educational programs that allow students to investigate primary source documents detailing the viewpoints of various Virginians about secession. These activities correlate to the Virginia Standards of Learning for history and social science, government, and civics.

“Perspectives on the Fugitive Slave Law”
VSOL: USI.1 (a, b, e), USI.9 (a, b), CE.1 (a, c, f, g), CE.2 (a), CE.6 (a), VUS.1 (a–c, h, i), VUS.7 (a), GOVT.1 (a, c, e–g), GOVT.4 (c), GOVT.5 (a, d)
Sectional disputes over the enforcement of fugitive slave laws increased tensions between the North and South preceding the Civil War. The case of Sara Lucy Bagby involved an enslaved African American woman, her owner in Virginia, the abolitionist community in Cleveland, Ohio, and the enforcement of federal law. Investigating a combination of primary sources and biographies of William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln, Sara Lucy Bagby (a fugitive slave from Virginia), and Miers Fisher (a slave owner and delegate to the Virginia Convention of 1861), students will compare varying views on enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

“Election of 1860: Dividing Virginia”
VSOL: USI.1 (a–c), USI.9 (b), CE.5 (g), VUS.7 (a)
It was one of the most important elections in American history. But why, exactly? What was at stake in the election? Who were the candidates and which parties did they represent? After reviewing the presidential candidates and their party platforms, students are asked to predict how citizens in three Virginia communities—Richmond, Alexandria, and Winchester—voted. Newspaper editorials, articles, and other statistics help students to understand what was valued by these communities, as well as the limits of liberty during this volatile time in American history. During this program, students will review the history of the election, the results of the voting in Virginia, and the aftermath of the election. The activity includes a participatory reenactment of viva voce voting, as practiced during the antebellum period.

“The Struggle to Decide: Union or Secession?”
VSOL: USI.9 (a, b, c), VUS.6 (e), VUS.7 (a)
What were Virginians thinking and writing after Abraham Lincoln’s victory in the election of 1860? Why didn’t Virginia leave the Union when states in the lower South did? What unique conditions factored into Virginia’s hesitance to leave the Union? Using primary sources, including excerpts from the Virginia Secession Debates, students will exercise their critical thinking skills to analyze Virginia’s path to the Confederacy.

Each of these programs is 40 minutes in length, and tours of the exhibition can be incorporated with additional time. There is no charge for the programs, but they are limited by staff availability and must be scheduled at least three weeks in advance. For more information contact

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Upcoming Event

“Union or Secession: Virginians Decide” Educator Open House and Reception
Friday, December 17, 2010
5:00–7:00 PM

What were Virginians thinking and discussing as the first Southern states withdrew from the United States following the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860? Why was Virginia’s decision critical to America’s fate in 1861 and key to the ultimate course and outcome of the sectional crisis? Virginia was central to American identity for its role in the founding of the United States and its political principles. Both the Confederacy and the Union wanted to claim Virginia’s historical legacy. The Union or Secession exhibition,on display from December 6, 2010, until October 29, 2011, explores what Virginians thought and debated as the crisis unfolded. Explore the choices Virginians faced as they decided their fate and the lasting consequences of their decisions for Virginia and the nation.

Educators will be treated to a special review of the exhibition and educational programs focusing on correlations to the Virginia Standards of Learning, and receive complementary resource material for use in their classrooms. Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit the Library's Special Collection Division to view the 1861 Virginia Ordinance of Secession.

Space is limited. RSVP by December 10, 2010.

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This Day in Virginia History: In the Classroom

Legislative Petition for James, Slave Belonging to William Armistead, 30 November 1786, Box 179, Folder 10, Library of Virginia, Richmond Virginia.

November 30, 1786

James Petitioned the General Assembly

James Lafayette is a person specifically named in the Virginia Studies SOLs for the Revolutionary War. James, an enslaved man from New Kent County, served as a spy in Yorktown for the Marquis de Lafayette during 1781. In November 1786 he successfully petitioned the General Assembly for his freedom. As a free man, he took the name James Lafayette. Use his petition to teach your students about the choices James had to make as an enslaved African American in Virginia at that time.

Lead your students to investigate James' petition with the transcription. Use a resource analysis sheet to facilitate the exploration. Discuss the roles of African Americans in the American Revolution and why James Lafayette is a special case. Have your students write a short essay from James Lafayette's perspective on why he chose to fight for the American cause.

For more background information on this document and further activities, see our lesson plan at Shaping the Constitution: "Freedom Is Worth Fighting For—Billy and James"

The student will demonstrate knowledge of the role of Virginia in the American Revolution by
b) identifying the various roles played by whites, enslaved African Americans, free African Americans, and American Indians in the Revolutionary War era, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and James Lafayette.

Essential Understandings                 
Virginians made significant contributions during the Revolutionary War era.
Whites, enslaved African Americans, free African Americans, and American Indians had various roles during the American Revolution.      

Essential Questions
What contributions did Virginians make during the Revolutionary War era?
What roles did whites, enslaved African Americans, free African Americans, and American
Indians play during the American Revolution?

Essential Knowledge
Varied roles of whites, enslaved African Americans, free African Americans, and American Indians in the Revolutionary War era
Some enslaved African Americans fought for a better chance of freedom.
Contributions of Virginians during the Revolutionary War era
James Lafayette, an enslaved African American from Virginia, served in the Continental Army and successfully requested his freedom after the war.