The Library of Virginia Newsletter
January 2016

2016 Strong Men and Women Essay Contest Winners Announced

Please join the Library of Virginia and Dominion Virginia Power in congratulating the winners of the student essay contest for the 2016 Strong Men and Women in Virginia History program. This program highlights eight African American leaders and their achievements.

High school students in Virginia were invited to participate in the annual essay contest. Four winning essays were chosen, one from each of the four regions in Virginia that Dominion Virginia Power serves. The contest winners receive a prize of an Apple iPad Air and $1,000 for each student's school.

The winners of the 2016 Strong Men and Women essay contest are:


Samuel Nana Adu-Gyamfi (senior), Highland Springs High School (Henrico County)


Sohilia Elziny (sophomore), Woodside High School (Newport News)


Savannah Frye (senior), Westfield High School (Fairfax County)


Katy Richardson (senior), Gate City High School (Scott County)

Participants were required to send an original, unpublished, 400-word essay reflecting on one of the 2016 Strong Men and Women honorees, Richmond postal worker Thomas Cannon Sr., a philanthropist who gave away more than $156,000 during his lifetime. In 1972 Cannon began donating money, frequently choosing people who had been featured in the news. His recipients included people who had experienced great hardships or had performed distinguishing acts of heroism, generosity, or community service. On one occasion, he boarded city buses to hand out envelopes filled with money. Although his annual salary never exceeded $25,000, Cannon funded his philanthropy by living frugally. His generosity and unwavering spirit drew local and national recognition. In his final days, Cannon requested that people honor him by helping others as he did throughout his life.

Cannon kept a list of 18 reasons why he gave away his money, including:

  • "I must give as I receive—I have been receiving from others all my life."
  • "To inspire people, to encourage them to have faith in themselves."

In their essays, students shared some of their own reasons for helping others and discussed whether Thomas Cannon might have agreed with their lists.

The Library thanks those who submitted essays and the many people, especially educators, who encouraged student participation. Please read and share the winning essays, which are available at

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Snuggle Up with a Book: Moo! Coming to Local Public Libraries this Winter

Thanks to the Library of Virginia, with support from Smart Beginnings, local public libraries in Virginia will offer the 2016 Winter Reading Program for children from birth to age five. This winter's program features artwork from the book Moo! by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka.

The Library of Virginia has offered an annual winter reading program since 2009. The Winter Reading Program traditionally begins in February, "I Love to Read Month," and concludes early in March on Read Across America Day. The dates of the program may vary by location, so be sure to check with your local library. The program helps parents and other adults assist in children's reading development. Special consideration is given for homes in which Spanish is the primary language.

A recent study by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley shows that by the age of three, children born into low–income families have heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers. This gap grows as the years progress, ensuring slow growth for children who are economically disadvantaged and accelerated growth for those from more privileged backgrounds.

"Everyone benefits from reading with young children," said Librarian of Virginia Sandra G. Treadway. "Early literacy skills are increased, contributing to success in school, and it is a great bonding experience for parents and caregivers when they spend time reading to their children."

The Library of Virginia uses funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to supply reading logs, stickers, posters, bookmarks, and certificates of completion in both English and Spanish to participating public libraries.

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2016 American Civil War Museum Symposium Explores "The Road from Appomattox"

A recent conversation at the American Civil War Museum turned to the question of why students of the Civil War tend not to be interested in the Reconstruction era even though they recognize how important it was. One colleague observed pithily that "it’s because no one was shooting at each other."

This observation explains accurately why fewer people are interested in Reconstruction than in the Civil War, but it's incorrect to infer that all the shooting stopped in 1865. Reconstruction was not simply the era of presidential impeachment, political struggles, and more legislation than most of us could memorize in our high school history classes. It was a period in which America continued to struggle—often violently—over the outcome of the Civil War.

The American Civil War Museum's 2016 symposium, entitled "The Road from Appomattox: Political Violence, Military Conflict, and National Reunion," will feature lectures about violence and the contest over the scope of African American freedom, a comparative look at the U.S. Army's treatment of Southern civilians and Native Americans, and the relationships between the Civil War and the Spanish–American War. The symposium will consider questions of continuity between the Civil War and postwar violence and the role of violence in shaping postwar America.

The speakers are Dr. Edward L. Ayers, past president of the University of Richmond and author of The Promise of the New South; Dr. Douglas Egerton of Lemoyne College, author of The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era; Dr. Gary W. Gallagher of the University of Virginia, author of The Union War and The Confederate War; Dr. Mark Grimsley of Ohio State University, author of The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861–1865; and Dr. Caroline E. Janney of Purdue University, author of Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation.

Cosponsored with the new John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia, the symposium will be held at the Library of Virginia on Saturday, February 20, 2016, 9:30 AM–4:30 PM. Admission is $60 ($40 for American Civil War Museum and Library of Virginia members). A boxed lunch will be provided for those who register by February 16. Register now. Questions? Contact John Coski at

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Nominations for Kotz Art in Literature Award Due April 30

Nominations are being sought for the 2016 Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award given by the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The award recognizes an outstanding book of fiction or nonfiction that demonstrates the highest literary merit as a creative or scholarly work on the theme of visual artists or art. Categories include works of journalism, poetry, fiction, biography, or history, as well as museum exhibition catalogs. For award criteria and rules, please see All submissions, whether sent in online or through mail, must be received by the Library of Virginia no later than April 30, 2016.

Previous winners of the award include The Innocence of Objects by Orhan Pamuk, The Embrace: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo by Carolyn Kreiter Foronda, and Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland.

The award is named for journalist Mary Lynn Kotz, author of the award-winning biography Rauschenberg: Art and Life. For years, Kotz has spoken publically and passionately to arts and literary organizations and general audiences about the need for clear, exciting writing about art.

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Light to Lead Library Board

R. Chambliss Light Jr., of Lynchburg, has been elected by members of the Library Board to serve as chair. Previously he had served as vice chair. The untimely death of Board chair Ernestine Middleton in October resulted in the Board's action at its January 11 meeting in Richmond.

Light has been employed for 30 years by Nationwide Insurance Company, where he has held a number of legal and management positions and is currently serving as an assistant general counsel. Light is a 1980 graduate of the University of Richmond's T.C. Williams School of Law and a 1976 graduate of the University of Virginia

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Deadline Extended for 2016 Student Writing Contest for Virginia Women in History

The deadline for Virginia students in grades 6–12 to submit essays for the Library's Virginia Women in History student writing contest has been extended to Monday, February 1, 2016. Four winning essays will be chosen, two from students in grades 6–8, and two from students in grades 9–12. Contest rules can be found at

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