The Library of Virginia Newsletter
January 2015

Library of Virginia and THNOC Present March 21 Symposium on Domestic Slave Trade

The Library of Virginia and The Historic New Orleans Collection, through a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, are presenting “To Be Sold: The American Slave Trade from Virginia to New Orleans,” a daylong free symposium simulcast from Richmond and New Orleans on Saturday, March 21, 2015. The symposium complements the Library of Virginia’s To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade, a groundbreaking exhibition that explores the sale and transportation of enslaved Virginians to the Deep South during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Recognized scholars from across the nation will assemble in both Richmond, Virginia, and New Orleans, Louisiana, to participate in a two-campus, live videoconference where audiences in both locations will explore how the American slave trade worked, its impact on the enslaved community, and the ramifications of the trade on the course of American history. Participants at both locations will be able to engage in live discussions with attendees and presenters at both sites.

The symposium is free but registration is required. For more information about the symposium at Library of Virginia in Richmond, call (804) 692-3592. To register for the Richmond session visit For information about the New Orleans portion of the symposium, call (504) 523-4662 or visit

The Richmond session, “Virginia and the American Slave Trade,” will feature a keynote address by Maurie McInnis, vice Provost for academic affairs and professor of art history, University of Virginia, and curator of the exhibition To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade. The session starts at 9:00 AM and lasts until 12:45 PM. A panel moderated by Charles Dew of Williams College and scholars Alexandra Finley of the College of William And Mary, Calvin Schermerhorn of Arizona State University, and Phillip Troutman of George Washington University will then include audience members from both Richmond and New Orleans in a conversation about the slave trade. In the afternoon session, “New Orleans and the American Slave Trade,” Walter Johnson takes the stage in New Orleans at 2:00 PM to assess the impact of transported slaves in the Deep South. His address will be followed by a session similar in format to the one in the morning. Panelists participating in New Orleans include Edward Baptist of Cornell University, Stephanie Jones-Rogers of Berkeley, Larry Powell of Tulane University (moderator), and Adam Rothman of Georgetown University. The symposium will conclude at 5:00 PM.

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Snuggle Up with Curious George at Your Local Public Library

Curious George

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce Snuggle Up with Curious George, the 2015 winter reading program focusing on children from 18 months to five years old. This is the sixth year that the Library has offered a winter reading program. For more than two decades the Library has sponsored the hugely popular summer reading program in the state’s public libraries. The winter reading program is designed to instill a love of reading in young children by having the child’s parent or other special adult read to them. The month-long program will begin on February 2 at local public libraries with numerous fun story times and special programs and incentives to encourage reading together at home.

Libraries participating in the winter reading program will receive materials from the Library of Virginia such as reading logs, activity sheets, posters, and activities to help children develop reading skills. Winter reading materials will be available in Spanish.

Reading to children lays the framework for future literacy. A study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood found that young children who had been read aloud to were more likely to enjoy reading. Language and literacy skills both were improved by parents reading to children. The benefits also continued throughout the school years, the research found.

“Reaching out to parents about the importance of reading to young children is critical to ensuring that Virginia’s children have the framework for future literacy and success in school,” said Sandra G. Treadway, Librarian of Virginia. “The use of Curious George as this winter’s theme ensures that Snuggle Up with Curious George will engage both parents and children in reading and in the many programs and activities offered by the state’s public libraries.”

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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 2015 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 2015 Strong Men and Women essay contest are:

Paige Lambert (senior), Hanover High School

Vanessa Adkins (senior), Charles City High School

Angela Gyane (sophomore), Potomac Senior High School

Eric Xu (senior), Western Albemarle High School

Students were required to send an original, unpublished, 400-word essay reflecting on the heroism of one of the 2015 Strong Men and Women honorees, Sergeant William H. Carney, a Norfolk-born Civil War soldier and the first African American Medal of Honor recipient. Students were asked: Have you ever been in a position that was unfair? Do you know of an African American—past or present—who was in a position that was unfair and yet rose above it? Describe the situation, its significance, and the lessons it teaches about perseverance and overcoming obstacles in the face of adversity.

The four contest winners will read their essays at an awards program in front of 500 distinguished educators, public officials, and community and business leaders in Richmond at the downtown Marriott Hotel on the evening of Wednesday, February 4, 2015. The winning students and a school representative will be present to receive the awards.

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

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Rare Authentic Artifact on Display at the Library

Artifacts in museum collections across the United States document the legacy of Southern slavery, but in many cases little to no provenance exists for these pieces. The demand for these grim reminders of slavery on sites like Ebay raises questions of authenticity. Recently, a museum in Virginia purchased items from a Pennsylvania auction house only to find that the pieces were fraudulent. Nevertheless, certain rare artifacts with detailed histories tell us a great deal about their importance and symbolism. One such artifact, a slave collar owned by the Massachusetts Historical Society, is now on display in the Library of Virginia’s exhibition To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade.

On May 31, 1862, a detachment of Union cavalry set out from the newly occupied city of New Orleans to confiscate weapons on surrounding plantations. Captain Samuel Tyler Read, a college educated, 26-year-old native of Attleboro, Massachusetts, led his troops to a plantation outside New Orleans owned by a Madame Coutreil, “a French Creole.” According to his account, a small building, “closed tightly and about nine or ten feet square, attracted my attention.” Demanding the keys to the structure, the captain entered the shuttered building. The unit’s first sergeant recalled that “Capt Read entered first and I immediately after. We stepped inside the door and immediately stepped out again. The intolerable stench that greeted our nostrils was too much even for strong nerves.”

Captain Read went on to describe the scene within:

The windows were tightly closed and not a breath of fresh air could reach the prisoners, and there crouched down in the darkness and filth we found three human beings, shut out from the pure air of heaven. And all for the crime of trying to make their escape from the barbarity, cruelty and inhumanity of Slavery. Upon the neck of one female, whose skin was almost as white as my own, a heavy iron band was riveted around her neck. From this band there were three long prongs projecting about a foot in length each.

After completing their mission, the detachment returned to New Orleans with the African Americans loaded in the unit’s baggage wagon. Safely in New Orleans, Captain Read had “the torture” removed from the girl’s neck by a blacksmith and “she was subsequently made free by military authority.”

On August 28, 1863, Captain Read mailed the “iron relic of a poor slave girl’s torture” to Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts with an explanatory letter. The preservation of the collar for 15 months suggests that soldiers in the field treated such “instruments of torment” as important icons of the war experience and slavery. The captain in fact termed it a “relic,” and in his time in New Orleans it had become just that as he became an eyewitness to the destruction of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued and African Americans troops had joined the fight in Captain Read’s own military theater. Clearly, the end of slavery was now a war aim. Captain Read may have heartily agreed with these developments or simply seen an opportunity to influence the abolitionist chief executive of his home state.

Captain Read’s letter to Governor Andrew played on popular themes of abolitionist propaganda. The Massachusetts captain had been a journalist during the first year of the war, and he shaped his narrative for full literary and emotional effect. The captain did not mention the other two enslaved people held in the plantation prison; he simplified his story, focusing solely on the pitiable figure of the “girl about eighteen years of age.” Captain Read’s narrative plays on the exploitation of a young, beautiful girl who is nearly white—making a mockery of the supposed chivalry of Southern society:

She had this iron torture riveted about her neck, where it had rusted through the skin, and lay corroding apparently upon the flesh. Her head was bowed upon her hands, and she was almost insensible from emaciation and immersion in the foul air of the dungeon. She was quite white—quadroon or octoroon—and previous to her confinement, which had continued as I found for three months, must have possessed a considerable claim to beauty.

Governor Andrew made sure to bring the object and the story of its victim directly to the attention of the people of Boston. He requested that fine art dealers Williams and Everett display the “memento of barbarism” at their Washington Street gallery. In his reasoning for advocating the collar’s display, he clearly elaborates a gendered vision of the story and its reception by the public.

GENTLEMEN:--Your rooms are visited every day by multitudes of cultivated and refined Massachusetts women attracted by your displays of art. I send you with this note an iron yoke surmounted by three prongs, which was cut from the neck of a slave girl, nearly white, in New Orleans, who was liberated by military authority . . . . I send to you in the hope that you will permit it to be placed on exhibition for a few weeks in your rooms, where the sight of it and the story of the poor child who wore it may remind mothers, wives and daughters, under whose eyes it may fall, of some of the good done by those whom they have sent from their firesides to encounter the hardship of war.

Governor Andrew’s reasoning reaffirmed the important role that women played in shaping home-front opinion and morale. Steeped in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and other narratives of bourgeois sentimentality, these “cultivated and refined” women would undoubtedly react as Governor Andrew hoped.

Williams and Everett happily assented to Governor Andrew’s request, and even upped the ante: “Dear Sir;—In compliance with your wishes we have willingly placed on exhibition the specimen of Southern Art, received with your note. We have taken the liberty to call attention to it through the press and trust that the sight of such an instrument of torture may open more completely the eyes of our people to the barbarism of the peculiar institution of the South.”

The firm’s desire to open eyes “more completely” speaks to the fact that not all viewers would be receptive, even in a city like Boston. The wives and daughters of Cotton Whigs, manufacturers, and merchants might still view slavery as benign and paternalistic—much as they viewed their husband’s control of industrial workers. “Instruments of torture” made for compelling evidence of slavery’s “barbarism,” and became a staple of abolitionist propaganda before and during the war.

To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade continues at the Library through May 30, 2015. The Library is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, excluding state holidays. Admission is free and there is very limited free parking in the Library’s underground deck, which is accessible from either Eighth or Ninths streets.

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SRC Reading Room Now Open by Appointment Only

Effective January 1, the Library of Virginia’s State Records Center reading room, located at 1998 Charles City Road in Henrico County, will only be open on Wednesdays and Thursdays by advance appointment only. Walk-ins cannot be accommodated. Please call no later than 4:30 PM the day before the Wednesday or Thursday that you plan to visit to make an appointment. There will be no same-day appointments. Also effective in 2015, the Library will transfer up to three boxes per patron from the SRC to the Library for patron use with advance notice by 3:00 PM on Fridays. The materials will be transferred on Tuesday mornings and should be available for patron use by Tuesday afternoon. Patrons cannot have more than three SRC boxes at the Library at a time.

The Library will keep the three boxes at the Library for up to two weeks, but must send them back after that because of limited space.

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Database Spotlight

Papers of John Marshall Digital Edition
Library of Virginia users now have on-site and remote access to the Papers of John Marshall database. This title is part of the University of Virginia’s American Founding Era collection and provides the complete contents of the print volumes in a searchable format. The American Founding Era texts document the lives of some of the most important political figures in our nation’s history and are a valuable source of primary and secondary materials for students and scholars. Users can perform full-text, date, author, or recipient searches across all volumes in a title, and all internal document cross-references are linked.

Additional titles from the American Founding Era Collection available from the Library of Virginia include:
Papers of George Washington Digital Edition Includes the Colonial Series (1748–1775), Revolutionary War Series (1775–1779), Confederation Series (1784–1788), Presidential Series (1788–1794), and Retirement Series (1797–1799) as well as the complete diaries (1748–1799).
Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition – Provides access to the Main Series (1760–1802) and the first eight volumes of the Retirement Series (1809–1815). This edition includes all of the illustrations and bibliographical content of the print edition.
Papers of James Madison Digital Edition – Contains the complete content of the print edition, which includes the Congressional Series (1751–1795), Secretary of State Series (1801–1805), Presidential Series (1809–1813), and Retirement Series (1817–1820). 

People of the Founding Era: A Prosopographical Approach – Provides biographical information for thousands of individuals born between 1713 and 1815. Subjects include members of influential families of the era, as well as artisans, slaves, and Native Americans. Many of the entries come from the various Papers projects in the American Founding Era collection and are linked to the original references within their respective edition.

Your Library of Virginia library card is your key to exploring these interesting resources. Stop by the Library to get a card or register online and then visit the Library’s Using the Collections page to begin your research!

–submitted by Lisa Wehrmann, Public Services and Outreach

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Library of Virginia Offers Collaborative Education Project on Slave Trade

A collaborative education project, Mapping the American Slave Trade, brings students from the Richmond and New Orleans areas together to learn about the interstate slave trade in America from many different perspectives. Students will receive a set of primary sources from the Library of Virginia (LVA) and The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) and work together using a digital platform. High school teachers and their classes from schools in both areas will collaborate on the project during the spring 2015 semester. Classes from the Richmond area will be paired with partner classes from New Orleans to research and write context for primary source documents that highlight the interstate slave trade. The classes will showcase their work on an interactive online map, provided by MapScholar, a free, online platform for geospatial visualization.

Before the project begins, both LVA and THNOC will hold teacher workshops to provide training on how to teach tough topics and how to use the digital platform. Students will select documents from the set provided, research and write context for the documents, and then pin the documents to a shared map. Students will use the documents to tell a story, either real or fictional.

Partner classes will communicate via video chat. In May, each class will create a short video describing what it has learned from the project. Each participating class will receive a selection of library publications.

Mapping the American Slave Trade will be published on MapScholar as well as on the websites of the Library of Virginia and The Historic New Orleans Collection. Teachers will be expected to attend the To Be Sold symposium on March 21, 2015, in either Richmond or New Orleans.

Participants will be selected/announced by January 15, 2015. Teachers and representatives from LVA and THNOC will participate by video chat in a planning conference on January 23, 2015. Classroom work will begin in mid-February 2015.

This collaborative project complements the Library’s exhibition To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade and The Historic New Orleans Collection’s exhibition Purchased Lives: New Orleans and the Domestic Slave Trade, 1808–1865.

–submitted by Adrienne Robertson and Catherine Wyatt, Public Services and Outreach

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