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The Changing Face of Virginia: My Life as a Carpetbagger


What a busy year it has been in the education office. I cannot believe that this is my final post for 2010!  Here is the third installment in our “Changing Face of Virginia” blog series written by high school student Charles Condro. The remaining blogs will be posted over the next few months, so check back in 2011! Also, be on the lookout for information about the 2011 Wyndham B. Blanton Scholar program early in the new year!Enjoy!

~Jennifer Rohrbaugh Nesossis, Outreach Educator


Charles is one of our biggest fans!

I was born in Virginia, and have lived here all of my life, but I was raised in New York. My dad was born in the Bronx, and spent the first half of his life in New York, and he passed much of this upbringing down to me. He and my mother became carpetbaggers when they moved down to Richmond for the job opportunities in the 1980s, but they retained most of their habits. We root for New York sports teams in a city where most people root for Washington and Atlanta. Most of my life I thought that we were isolated northerners in the Deep South, but Virginia has been changing. As time has gone on I have seen Richmond to have more in common with cities like New York and New Haven. Even the accents have started to mingle through exposure and movement: now my dad is no longer the only person I know in Virginia who does not pronounce the H’s at the beginning of his words.


Most of my dad’s family still resides in New York. Like many northerners I have met, they think that south of the Mason-Dixon Line, cotton is still king. Many a time I have had to tell someone that sadly, no, I do not live on a plantation, and no, I have never used a cotton gin.

When my parents moved down to Richmond twenty-five years ago, they too were expecting “Green Acres”. The culture shock was there from the word go, as they went from newspapers with exciting headlines about international events, scandals and big sports games to one that read something more like “Fireman Saves Cat from Tree.”

The proof of Richmond’s transformation, however, is in the pudding. Inevitably when I get in the car to go somewhere with my dad, he will point to a large building complex or a road and say something like, “This was all woods when I got here,” or, “This road has doubled in size.”

While Richmond will never be New York City, it doesn’t need to be. The city is fast becoming more “happening,” yet it still is retaining its unique southern feel. One thing, however, is for certain; never again will daring pet rescues be the top headline in Richmond news.

Richmond’s skyline has grown with the city to rival those of many northern cities. Photo by Anthony Nesossis

Jennifer Nesossis is an outreach educator at the Virginia Historical Society.

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