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Double Take

09/23/2014

During my nearly eight years at the VHS, I’ve had many instances where I’ve needed to stop and do a double take.

 

We need you to photograph a small pox scab.

Wait. What?

 

Those bears are on leashes.

Wait. What is going on there?

 

J. E. B. Stuart signed his pants.

Wait. Really? [not really, but someone signed them for him]

 

When I digitized a set of daguerreotypes this summer I made that familiar pause again.

Wait. Didn’t I just see this image?

 

It turns out that the two daguerreotypes of Lucy Goode Tucker Chambers that I was holding were mirror images of one another. It took me a while to determine what was going on. I compared the ribbon on her bonnet, the swag of her watch chain, and even the book on which she rests her elbow. Did she just shift her weight to the other side, or was it the same image in reverse?

I confirmed it by digitally flipping and overlaying one image on top of the other. After a slight resizing, it was a perfect match. What a unique find!

Lucy Goode Tucker Chambers

When the copy image is reversed and made translucent, it can be easily matched to the original to confirm that it is a copy, not a second original capture.

Daguerreotypes are the earliest form of permanent photographic imagery. They are made by capturing an image on a polished silver-coated, light-sensitive copper plate, which is developed with mercury vapor and fixed with a salt solution. Because the finished plate is viewed from the side that was closest to the subject, when the daguerreotype is created, the image is laterally reversed—a mirror image. The use of a reflective prism could produce a right-reading image, but that was rarely done primarily because the resulting light loss would require already-long exposure times to be even longer. To get a right-reading image, the easiest solution was to make a daguerreotype of the daguerreotype. The resulting copy would read correctly.

White frame house with white picket fence at Cambridge, New York, with horse and buggy in front

White frame house with white picket fence at Cambridge, New York, with horse and buggy in front. This daguerreotype has a mirror included in its case to make it convenient to view the image in the correct orientation. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, DAG no. 1324)

The Library of Congress has an interesting daguerreotype in their collection that shows a house with a picket fence. A landscape view like this is something that would be important to view in the correct orientation, not mirrored. To solve this problem, a mirror was included in the daguerreotype case so that the viewer could look at the photo of the house through the mirror and see a correctly oriented house and street scene. Ahhh, home feels like home again.

Each daguerreotype is a one-of-a-kind photograph. Because there is no negative, there is no way to produce a subsequent print.

With this set of portraits of Chambers we are left wondering if we have two images because 1) someone wanted a right-reading image or 2) someone wanted a second copy. We’ll never know for sure, but we can enjoy this example of early photography either way.

To learn more about the process of making a daguerreotype, check out this excellent video from The J. Paul Getty Museum:

Meg M. Eastman is the Digital Collections Manager at the Virginia Historical Society.

A Toy to End All Toys

09/19/2014

One in 8.5 Million

A Toy to End All Toys

Toys 2003.412.26

Toy Soldiers, Ambulance, Supply Carriage, and Stretcher, c. 1914 – 1918, O&M Hausser, sawdust and glue. Gift of J. Madison Macon (Virginia Historical Society, Accession number: 2003.412.26.1-3)

These figures, dressed in Red Cross uniforms and English Brodie helmets worn during the First World War, were created by German company O&M Hausser, which made toy soldiers, cowboys, Indians, and medieval knights before closing in 1983. The soldiers are made from elastoline, the company’s trademarked material made primarily from saw dust and glue. August 2014 marked the centennial of the start of the First World War—a four-year-long global conflict that resulted in over thirty seven million military and civilian casualties.

The Virginia Historical Society has been collecting since 1831. Included in our unique collection are 8-million processed manuscripts, 200,000 books, 290,000 prints and photographs, and 32,000 museum objects documenting the daily lives and times of all Virginians. The object featured here offers one opportunity to look into the past. Millions more treasures await you at our headquarters in Richmond, by appointment at Virginia House, and online at vahistorical.org.

“You’ll be Back”: My First Trip to the VHS

09/16/2014

Marching Masters by Colin Edward WoodwardWe welcome Colin Woodward as guest author of this post. Woodward used the VHS’s extensive Civil War collections while writing his recently published book.  In addition to being one of our Mellon Fellows in 2003, he also joined the VHS staff as a project archivist from April 2007 to September 2010.

The writing of my first book, Marching Masters: Slavery, Race, and the Confederate Army during the Civil War took fourteen years to complete. I began it as a graduate student at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. Initially, my research involved many hours digging through letters, diaries, and memoirs at the library, which was only a short walk under the live oaks from my history department office. Eventually, though, I realized I needed to immerse myself in archival sources. As a dissertation student, the special collections at LSU’s Hill Memorial Library had rich sources on Civil War life and slavery in the lower Mississippi Valley. But because I was researching the “entire” Confederate army, I knew I needed to travel to an archive in Virginia.

I chose the Virginia Historical Society (VHS). I applied for a two-week Mellon research fellowship. My application was successful, and I headed to Richmond. It was a snowy week in January of 2003 when I journeyed to the former capital of the Confederacy for the first time. I stayed, as have many graduate students before me, at the bed and breakfast on Kensington Avenue across the street from the VHS.

I was impressed by the professionalism at the society. The formality of the place was a bit intimidating when I had to talk at the “informal” colloquium for Mellon fellows. At the Wednesday morning colloquium, I was seated at a table filled with well-dressed archivists and historians who asked me some tough questions about my research. Not only were there men with ties, but there were also men in suits. To put this in perspective, during my eight years at LSU, I never saw my dissertation advisor in a tie, let alone a suit.

My first week of research at the VHS was one of the best of my life. What the VHS had on Confederate soldiers was more than I could ever look at in a week or two. It would’ve been nice to stay for months.

Not only did I have the pleasure of uninterrupted Civil War research, but I also fell in love with Richmond. The city is full of history and interesting people. I found that some of the strangers I met in pubs actually wanted to hear about my research.

I also visited the Byrd Theater for the first time, where I saw Bob Gulledge on the “Mighty Wurlitzer.” Entering the Byrd is like going back in time, and it has the uncomfortable seats to prove it. As I walked home from seeing The Ring, snow fell on RVA.

On my way home after a second visit to Richmond that summer, I was getting out of a taxi at the airport when the cabby handed me his card. “But I won’t be back,” I said. “You’ll be back,” he promised. He was right. Two years after graduating from LSU, I was working as an archivist at the VHS.

My research at the society enriched the book that became Marching Masters. But there is more to an archive than letters and diaries. The VHS benefits from a first-rate staff that is knowledgeable and friendly. The reading room is splendid. Any researcher interested in Virginia should go there.

Periodically the Virginia Historical Society will post content created by guest writers. The opinions expressed are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Virginia Historical Society, its members, or its staff. The Virginia Historical Society encourages discussion; however, we reserve the right to remove comments that are offensive, threatening, or insulting.

On Dueling

09/11/2014

My nephew once challenged me to a duel. We matched wits with two retro-cool Star Wars light sabers, which he had received for his birthday. I prevailed over my young challenger (I believe he was five), but he was a sore loser and claimed I had cheated. Years later, when I see my former adversary, we continue to debate the intricacies of that duel. I still cannot convince him of my prowess, but I did concede that my height—I was roughly three feet taller at the time—likely provided me at least a slight advantage.

Such frivolity, of course, does not square with duels that took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the United States and elsewhere, traditional and patriarchal conceptions of honor prescribed that men could respond to perceived slights by challenging the offender to a duel. Many Virginians earnestly engaged in such affairs, believing that their participation would mark them as “honorable” men. People in the vicinity took note of the outcomes of these rituals. A public contesting of honor in this format offered high stakes for one’s standing in his community. As Bertram Wyatt-Brown observed, in his book Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South,

“The duel, no less than hospitality and gaming, was inseparable from community evaluation of the individual, although dueling . . . was alleged to be a defense of personal honor.”

A number of these events evolved from insults lodged in print, frequently in the midst of political debates. The historian John Hope Franklin once observed that “no class of Southerner, perhaps, went to the field of honor more frequently than newspaper editors.” Meriwether Jones provided proof of Franklin’s assertion. An editor of the Richmond Examiner, and famous for his temper, Jones engaged in a number of duels—until, finally, an adversary killed him, in 1806.

Image of a newspaper, featuring news about a duel between John Hampden Pleasants, and Thomas Ritchie, Jr. VHS Museum Collection, Accession Number 2001.230.1731

Image of a newspaper, featuring news about a duel between John Hampden Pleasants, and Thomas Ritchie, Jr. VHS Museum Collection, Accession Number 2001.230.1731

One of the more famous duels in Virginia involved two other Richmond newspaper editors, Thomas Ritchie, Jr. (ca. 1820-1854), and John Hampden Pleasants (1797-1846). Ritchie, who worked for the Enquirer, engaged in a bitter debate with John Hampden Pleasants of the Richmond Whig. Although Pleasants opposed dueling in principle, after Ritchie called him a “coward”—in print—Pleasants felt compelled to respond by challenging Ritchie to a duel. The two met on the south side of the James River in 1846. Pleasants shot into the air, intentionally avoiding Ritchie, but Ritchie took no such mercy and mortally wounded Pleasants. According to the historian Virginius Dabney, in his last moments Pleasants asked that Ritchie not be prosecuted and said “What a damned immolation, to be such slaves to public opinion!” Indeed.

The daguerreotype seen below features another victim of a duel—Martha Anne Fletcher Hardaway Shore. Probably born about 1798, Martha Shore did not participate in a duel, but lost her husband to such a confrontation. The inscription enclosed with the daguerreotype, found in our Museum Collections, claims the following: “Martha Fletcher, daughter of James Fletcher of ‘Somerset,’ widow of Dr. Hardaway (killed by Mr. Bacon in a duel). Second marriage to Dr. Robert Shore.”

 

Martha Fletcher Hardaway Shore, whose first husband purportedly died in a duel. VHS Museum Collection, Accession Number 2001.42.18

Martha Fletcher Hardaway Shore, whose first husband purportedly died in a duel. VHS Museum Collection, Accession Number 2001.42.18

Today, we often complain about the dysfunctional process of our political leaders in Washington. But perhaps inertia (if, alas, accompanied by much hyperbole) is preferable to deciding matters in a duel, as was the case when John Randolph (1773-1833) confronted Henry Clay (1777-1852). Randolph, a congressman from Virginia, was widely considered an eccentric. Though he possessed a quick mind, sharp wit, and formidable political skills, one of his biographers has also noted his rather odd qualities: “As a young man Randolph suffered a mysterious malady that left him beardless, treble-voiced, and attenuated. He never married; rumor gathered around his apparent lack of masculinity.” Eccentricities aside, Randolph also was well-known for his volcanic temper. In a speech given in the House of Representatives, in 1826, Randolph castigated the administration of President John Quincy Adams—singling out then-Secretary of State Henry Clay, of Kentucky, for an especially harsh attack. Clay took umbrage. Within a few days, Clay claimed in a letter to the Virginian that he had “no other alternative than that of demanding personal satisfaction.” Randolph accepted the challenge.

Matched pair of dueling pistols, originally owned by John Randolph (1773-1833). Purchased in London and given to Randolph by Joseph Bryan (1773-1812), this set of pistols was manufactured by Wogdon and Barton. According to a brief article in the Virginia Historical Society Occasional Bulletin (Number 5 [October 1962], p. 8-11), Randolph carried these pistols to his duel with Henry Clay, but other weapons were used. VHS Museum Collection, Accession Number 1961.35.A-K.

Matched pair of dueling pistols, originally owned by John Randolph (1773-1833). Purchased in London and given to Randolph by Joseph Bryan (1773-1812), this set of pistols was manufactured by Wogdon and Barton. According to a brief article in the Virginia Historical Society Occasional Bulletin (Number 5 [October 1962], p. 8-11), Randolph carried these pistols to his duel with Henry Clay, but other weapons were used. VHS Museum Collection, Accession Number 1961.35.A-K.

The match was set for 8 April 1826. Randolph insisted that it should take place in Virginia because, reportedly, should he lose he wanted to die on Virginia soil. However, the duel proved anticlimactic. In the interim between Clay’s challenge and the date of the clash, Randolph had confided to friends that he did not intend to kill his opponent. Clay, for his part, apparently shared Randolph’s reluctance to follow through. At the fateful meeting, Clay fired the first shot but missed Randolph by a distance that convinced observers he had not intended to hit his purported target. Randolph returned fire—his only shot of the day—and though he was known to be a marksman, he missed Clay entirely. Clay’s second shot penetrated Randolph’s cloak, but did not graze him. At that point, rather than aim at Clay, Randolph shot into the air, and then moved toward Clay with his hand extended. According to witnesses, Randolph said “Mr. Clay, you owe me a coat.” Clay responded that “I am glad the debt is no greater,” and with that, the two leaders then walked from the field together.

The Randolph-Clay duel made me wonder if, perhaps, such confrontations were somehow cathartic (if rather dangerous). Perhaps someone should suggest a similar, but less deadly, exchange for our leaders in Washington today—maybe a game of dodgeball? In the meantime, I should get in touch with my nephew. I think I owe him a beer.

John McClure is the Reference department manager at the Virginia Historical Society.

Birthday Songs for George Washington

09/04/2014

Though you might not expect it, 1932 was a big year for George Washington. It marked the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth and launched a year-long birthday party on a national scale.

Congress officially established the George Washington Bicentennial Commission to oversee and promote the celebratory events. Cities, schools, civic organizations, and private individuals across the nation planned ways to remember Washington as the greatest American hero—from parades and reenactments to essay competitions and special school courses on his significance. With Congress’ support, the bicentennial commission put out a flurry of publications of Washington’s papers and new scholarship on his life. The commission especially encouraged the participation of children in order to promote the importance of Washington to the next generation.

Americans invested so heavily in this celebration for several reasons. For one, the milestone coincided with the height of colonial revivalism—a national infatuation with all things colonial. In 1932, Washington and his era were very much in style. The Great Depression also played a role. During hard times Americans tended to look to the past to give hope for the future. Remembering how Washington overcame adversity inspired many twentieth-century Americans that they could do the same.

Mss5.5.Un3.15_BicentennialParade1932

Parades like this one in Alexandria were held in cities and towns across the nation to celebrate George Washington’s 200th birthday. (Virginia Historical Society, call number: Mss5:5 Un3:15)

It was while conducting research for my undergraduate thesis on Ferry Farm (George Washington’s boyhood home near Fredericksburg, Va.) that I first learned about the 1932 bicentennial. I was immediately shocked and intrigued by the passionate, adoring language used during the celebration. Since coming to the Virginia Historical Society, I’ve enjoyed finding more of that same 1932 Washington craze in the society’s collections.

Of particular interest are several pieces of sheet music composed specifically for the birthday bicentennial. That the 1930s inspired such revival of Washingtonian songs is remarkable enough, but listen to some of the language used in these tunes:

“Washington, Savior of our Race/ Man of charm and grace/ Great Father of our Country/ Thy name we honor and adore.” – “My Washington Grand,” 1930

“Onward on! Ye stalwart sons of freedom. Shout out ‘George Washington’ with cheer! Praise the leader of our nation true, praise him year by year. . . . Hail to the father of our glorious land, for he gave us liberty!” – “Washington Forever”

“The glorious name of Washington shall glow with fire immortal!” – “The Glorious Name of Washington,” 1931.

This sheet music truly captured the spirit of the age and the remarkably passionate way Americans in that year chose to remember George Washington. The Washington of these songs resembles less of the human George, the Virginian who became the nation’s first president, and more of Washington the legend—the superhero. Perhaps remembering their revolutionary beginnings in this way gave Americans courage to face the trying days of the Great Depression.

MyWashingtonGrand_001

Sheet music from “My Washington Grand,” written in 1930 for the bicentennial

In these lyrics, and most of the language of the 1932 bicentennial, Washington becomes not only the embodiment of all things American but also the figure who continues to guide the nation in spirit. Some of the lyrics even take on a religious tone, portraying Washington as immortal and his memory as sacred:

“His spirit is here/ His spirit is here/ He’s standing, commanding above/ In word and deed we follow the lead/ Of the father of the land we love.”

Americans in the early 1930s loved George Washington, and took his 200th birthday as an opportunity to show it. His memory still looms large in modern American culture; however, it would be rare today to hear someone express the type of love for our first president demonstrated in this bicentennial sheet music.

To see the sheet music collection and dozens of publications from the George Washington Bicentennial Commission, visit the Reading Room at the Virginia Historical Society.

Candice Roland is a library clerk at the Virginia Historical Society.

Food Will Win The War

08/27/2014

Baby showers, Easter, church dinners, my niece’s wedding, Fourth of July picnics, a funeral of a friend from church, vacations with family and friends, prayer shawl meetings, festivals (yes, even the Virginia Festival of the Book), Virginia Historical Society staff birthdays, Sunday dinners, and even working Saturdays in the VHS library are some of the reasons I have used my cookbook collection this year. I am blessed to live in a country where food can be found in abundance. My vegetable garden did very poorly this year, and I am grateful that I live close to a grocery store, where I can buy a tomato to supplement my meager homegrown supply! This is so different from the situation Virginians faced during World War I.

During World War I, the United States, even before declaring war, encouraged its citizens to share their bounty with the soldiers and citizens of the Allied Powers in Europe and Great Britain. The United States grew more food than any other country, and it became so important to the cause that Germans attacked ships carrying food along with other war supplies across the Atlantic. After formally declaring war on Germany in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order creating the U. S. Food Administration that August to assure the supply, distribution, and conservation of food during the war. Herbert Hoover was appointed administrator of the Food Administration, and he appealed to the American people’s sense of patriotism when he called upon them to sacrifice through voluntary food rationing and substitutes. He stated in his memoirs that his job was to ask people to “Go back to simple food, simple clothes, simple pleasures. Pray hard, work hard, sleep hard and play hard. Do it all courageously and cheerfully.” By the end of the war, fourteen million Americans (primarily women) joined the Food Administration by signing the membership cards found in their publications.

And these women collected and produced cookbooks:

 

“The War Cook Book for American Women: Suggestions for Patriotic Service in the Home”

“The War Cook Book for American Women: Suggestions for Patriotic Service in the Home” was issued by the U.S. Food Administration and published in Washington, D.C., in 1917.” It stresses the voluntary component of food rationing by suggesting smaller portions, preparing menus in advance, making food visually appealing, and it recommends general substitutions, such as molasses, honey, and syrups for sugar. It also includes recipes for “War Breads,” which follow the “Fifty-fifty rule” of substituting wheat flour with flour made of rice, barley, or corn meal. (Virginia Historical Society, Call number: D810 W7 H35 1917)

 

Bedford's War Cook Book

The “Bedford’s War Cookbook” contains “choice recipes contributed by Bedford housewives” and was compiled by the Food Conservation Committee of the Bedford County Federation of Clubs in 1918. It was published as a way to get women to display their patriotism through following the guidelines set forth by the Food Administration. It includes recipes for bread, soup, meat substitutes, vegetables, salads, pickles and sauces, cakes, cookies, puddings, pies, ice creams and sherberts, beverages, candies, preserves, and canning. It even included recipes for soap and insect repellants. (Virginia Historical Society, Call number: TX715 V81 B4)

Warrenton Garden Club Receipts

“Warrenton Garden Club Receipts” was produced with the sanction of the Food Administration of Fauquier County, and its sale price of 25 cents benefited the American Red Cross. The patriotic element of the little cookbook can be seen in the titles of the sections: War Breads, Save Wheat for our Soldiers; Meat Substitute Dishes, Save Meat for our Soldiers and War Cake and Candy, Save Sugar for our Soldiers. (Virginia Historical Society, Call number: TX715 W26)

The Bluegrass Cook Book

“The Bluegrass Cook Book” was written by Minerva Carr Fox in 1904. This African American cookbook was republished in 1918, and Minerva Carr Fox wrote a new preface in which she stated “A time when to save certain kinds of food is to save soldiers . . . the earnest advice of the Food Conservation Commission gives a special importance to the methods of the colored cooks of the South.” In the preface her son, John Fox, Jr., gave “All honor to that turbaned mistress of the Kentucky kitchen—the Kentucky cook. She came to the Blue Grass from Virginia more than a hundred years ago.” The list of contributors to this cookbook includes many Virginia residents. (Virginia Historical Society, Call number: TX715 F73 1918)

 

War Gardening and Home Storage of Vegetables

“War Gardening and Home Storage of Vegetables: The Victory Edition” was published in 1919 by the National War Garden Commission at the end of the war. The preface stressed the importance of continuing food aid to Europe. Charles Lathrop organized in the U.S. National War Garden Commission in March 1917 to encourage the planting of home gardens, later known as victory gardens. More than five million gardens were planted by the end of the war. This comprehensive manual contained information on garden maintenance, seeds, insect prevention, planting instructions, and even a easy-to-read planting table. At the end of World War I, Europeans still needed food from the United States, and 75 percent of American families continued to conserve food. The new motto of the U.S. Food Administration became “Feeding the World.” (Virginia Historical Society, Call number: SB321 N3 1919)

In all of these cookbooks, the most appealing recipe to me is for war candy. Ingredients are simply sweet chocolate, raisins, and vanilla and remind me of the raisinettes that my girlfriend Karen eats at the movies! If you want to try it, the recipe is below, or you can get a sample on the World War I Behind the Scenes tour on Saturday August 30, 2014. There you will see our cookbook collection (as well as the staff kitchen!) and other amazing treasures from World War I.

Recipe for war candy

Recipe for War Candy from the “Warrenton Garden Club War Receipts” book. (Virginia Historical Society, Call number: TX715 W26)

Paulette Schwarting is Director of Technical Services at the Virginia Historical Society.

Freedom Riders

08/25/2014

In 1961, a small group of white and black volunteers rode public buses into the South to demonstrate that interstate travel facilities remained segregated in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Freedom Riders faced arrest and beatings in their efforts to compel the federal government to enforce the law.

When we think of the modern civil rights movement, we often think about events in the Deep South. Images from Virginia rarely appeared on the nightly news as the commonwealth avoided much of the state-sanctioned violence that occurred in Alabama and Mississippi. Nonetheless, it was often legal decisions in Virginia that provided the justification for federal involvement in the ending of Jim Crow.

Freedom Riders Movie Poster

Freedom Riders Movie Poster

Similarly, when we think of the Freedom Riders, we recall the iconic image of the burning Greyhound bus outside Anniston, Alabama, the Klan-led beatings at bus stations in Birmingham and Montgomery, and the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of the protesters at Mississippi’s infamous Parchmen Farm. We don’t think about Virginia. But court cases initiated in the commonwealth played an important part of the Freedom Rides by providing legal groundwork that led to the ending of segregation in interstate transportation.

When the Freedom Riders arrived in Richmond on May 4, 1961, they discovered two cafeterias in the bus terminal. Although the signs had been removed, it was clear that one served black travelers and the other served white travelers. Integrated groups patronized both cafeterias and received service. One of the Freedom Riders, Frances Bergman, reported that “there was surprise and much curiosity, but no incidents.”

Challenging Jim Crow transportation in the Old Dominion was not always so easy. On July 16, 1944, twenty-seven-year-old Irene Morgan boarded a Greyhound bus in Gloucester, Virginia, to travel to Baltimore. When the bus stopped in Saluda, the driver ordered Morgan to give her seat to a white passenger. Morgan, who was recovering from a miscarriage, refused. After an altercation, she was arrested and later tried and convicted of violating a state law that required passengers “to take and occupy the seat or seats or other spaces assigned to them by the driver.” Morgan appealed and eventually the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1945, the court found that state laws mandating Jim Crow seating violated the Constitution’s commerce clause.

This 1962 poster, published by the Association for the Study of Negro Life & History, made reference the Freedom Rides of 1961. It also anticipates the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the March on Washington in 1963.

This 1962 poster, published by the Association for the Study of Negro Life & History, made reference the Freedom Rides of 1961. It also anticipates the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the March on Washington in 1963. (Virginia Historical Society, Accession number: 2001.35.2)

Thirteen years later, in December 1958, Bruce Boynton, a law student at Howard University, was traveling from Washington, D. C., to his home in Selma, Alabama. In Richmond, Boynton was refused service in the bus terminal’s white-only restaurant. He asserted his right as an interstate passenger, under Morgan v. Virginia, to sit where he wanted. Police arrested Boynton, and he was convicted and fined for trespassing.

Martin A. Martin, a local attorney working with the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, brought suit. Martin claimed Boynton’s conviction violated the commerce clause, the Interstate Commerce Act, and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which in a 7 to 2 ruling handed down on December 5, 1960, found Virginia’s law mandating segregation in the bus terminal unconstitutional. Because the primary purpose of the restaurant was to provide service to bus passengers, many of whom were involved in interstate travel, racial segregation in the terminal violated the Interstate Commerce Act. Five months later, the Freedom Riders entered Richmond.

The Virginia Historical Society is showing the documentary film Freedom Riders on Thursday, August 28, at 6:30 p.m. Freedom Riders is the third in a series of four films being shown by the Virginia Historical Society in 2014 to encourage community conversations about the changing meaning of freedom and equality in contemporary American society. Following the film, there will be commentary by Oliver W. Hill, Jr., professor of psychology at Virginia State University and son of the famed civil rights attorney, and audience discussion.CreatedEqual_FreedomRiders

Bill Obrochta  is the manager of educational services at the Virginia Historical Society.

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