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Location of Virginia

Virginia (/vərˈɪnjə/ (About this soundlisten)), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States, between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most-populous city, and Fairfax County is the most-populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's population was over 8.65 million, with 36% of them living in the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area.

The area's history begins with several indigenous groups, including the Powhatan. In 1607, the London Company established the Colony of Virginia as the first permanent English colony in the New World. Virginia's state nickname, the Old Dominion, is a reference to this status. Slave labor and land acquired from displaced native tribes fueled the growing plantation economy, but also fueled conflicts both inside and outside the colony. Virginia was one of the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution, becoming part of the United States in 1776. The state was split by the American Civil War in 1861, when Virginia's state government in Richmond joined the Confederacy, but many in the state's western counties remained loyal to the Union, helping form the state of West Virginia in 1863. Although the Commonwealth was under one-party rule for nearly a century following Reconstruction, both major political parties are competitive in modern Virginia. (Full article...)

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Harry F. Byrd, Sr., architect of the policy of "massive resistance"
The Stanley plan was a package of 13 statutes adopted in September 1956 by the U.S. state of Virginia designed to ensure racial segregation in that state's public schools despite the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). The legislative program was named for Governor Thomas B. Stanley, who proposed the program and successfully pushed for its enactment. The Stanley plan was a critical element in the policy of "massive resistance" to the Brown ruling advocated by U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. (pictured). The plan also included measures designed to curb the Virginia state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which many Virginia segregationists believed was responsible for "stirring up" litigation to integrate the public schools.

The plan was enacted by the Virginia Assembly on September 22, 1956, and signed into law by Governor Stanley on September 29. A federal court struck down a portion of the Stanley plan as unconstitutional in January 1957. By 1960, nearly all of the major elements of the plan (including the litigation curbs aimed at the NAACP) had been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal and state courts. The constitutional invalidity of the Stanley plan led new governor of Virginia, James Lindsay Almond, Jr., to propose "passive resistance" to school integration in 1959. The Supreme Court declared portions of "passive resistance" unconstitutional in 1964 and again in 1968.

Selected biography

Portrait of George Mason
George Mason IV (December 11, 1725 [O.S. November 30, 1725] – October 7, 1792) was an American planter, politician and delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, one of three delegates who refused to sign the Constitution. His writings, including substantial portions of the Fairfax Resolves of 1774, the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, and his Objections to this Constitution of Government (1787) in opposition to ratification, have exercised a significant influence on American political thought and events. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, which Mason principally authored, served as a basis for the United States Bill of Rights, of which he has been deemed the father.

Mason was born in 1725, most likely in what is now Fairfax County, Virginia. He married in 1750, built Gunston Hall, and lived the life of a country squire, supervising his lands, family, and slaves.As tensions grew between Britain and the American colonies, Mason came to support the colonial side, and used his knowledge and experience to help the revolutionary cause, finding ways to work around the Stamp Act of 1765 and serving in the pro-independence Fourth Virginia Convention in 1775 and the Fifth Virginia Convention in 1776.

Mason prepared the first draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776, and his words formed much of the text adopted by the final Revolutionary Virginia Convention. During the American Revolutionary War, Mason was a member of the powerful House of Delegates of the Virginia General Assembly but, to the irritation of Washington and others, he refused to serve in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, citing health and family commitments.

Mason was in 1787 named one of his state's delegates to the Constitutional Convention and traveled to Philadelphia, his only lengthy trip outside Virginia. He was active in the convention for months before deciding that he could not sign it. He cited the lack of a bill of rights most prominently in his Objections, but also wanted an immediate end to the slave trade and a supermajority for navigation acts, which might force exporters of tobacco to use more expensive American ships. He failed to attain these objectives there, and again at the Virginia Ratifying Convention of 1788, but his prominent fight for a bill of rights led fellow Virginian James Madison to introduce one during the First Congress in 1789; these amendments were ratified in 1791, a year before Mason died. Obscure after his death, Mason has come to be recognized in the 20th and 21st centuries for his contributions both to the early United States and to Virginia.

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USS Enterprise (CVN-65)

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1630 Hondius Map of Virginia and the Chesapeake - Geographicus - NovaVirginiaeTabula-hondius-1630.jpg
Credit: Henrik Hondius after Jodocus Hondius II after John Smith

1630 edition of John Smith's map of the Chesapeake Bay (North to the right)

Did you know - load new batch

  • ... that a 1967 promotion by Virginia radio station WHIH, anticipated to receive 15,000 entries, instead received nearly 180 million?
  • ... that an original work by artist Virginia Overton was used as a prize at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival?
  • ... that feminist Mary Stuart Smith publicly admonished the aristocracy of Virginia in 1893 for their failure to recognize the talent of native artists?
  • ... that John Thomas Douglass's Virginia's Ball, which premiered in 1868, is generally regarded as the first opera written by a black composer?
  • ... that in June 2020, Southern Virginia University removed the name of Robert Lee Durham from its main academic building in the wake of the George Floyd protests, citing his racist views?
  • ... that Virginia Walker was signed to a Hollywood film contract on the basis of her picture in a magazine advertisement for soap?

Fact sheet

  • Capital: Richmond, Virginia
  • Total area: 110,862 sq.mi
  • Highest elevation: 5,729 ft (Mount Rogers)
  • Population (2010 census) 8,001,024
  • Date Virginia joined the united States: June 25, 1788

State symbols:

Virginia Quarter


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