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The Changing Face of Virginia: Generations of Change


This installment in The Changing Face of Virginia series is written by high school student and Blanton Scholar, Stephen Roach.

The remaining blogs will be posted over the next few months! Be on the lookout for information about the 2011 Wyndham B. Blanton Scholar program! Enjoy!

~Jennifer Rohrbaugh Nesossis, Outreach Educator

Stephen at the 2010 Blanton Scholars award ceremony.

Hi, I’m Stephen, and I’m a trumpet player from Tennessee.  And yet I’m writing as a Virginian about Virginia.  Howzat work?!  I’d say it’s a good representation of what has really caused not just Virginia in the past half-century, but any culture from anywhere in anytime to change: new people moving in.  At the Blanton Scholars Forum in July, I think more than half the participants were born outside the state, from just about everywhere.  The world’s a lot smaller than it used to be, and it’s getting smaller all the time.  This is radically changing Virginia, the US, and the whole world, really.  Cultures are blending together, and barriers of culture and class are breaking down as distance becomes irrelevant.

I’m not from Virginia, but my grandfather is, and my family’s been in and around Southwest Virginia for quite a few generations.  My grandfather’s great-grandfather fought with Lee, and his whoknowshowmany-great grandfather was a bodyguard for Patrick Henry, so they say.

His Virginia has rural, rolling hills up to the Blue Ridge, with farms amid forest.  Mine is farmland being rapidly eaten up by suburban developments with names like “Harbour Pointe” and “Foxfire”.   His is scattered with fading manufacturing-industry, while anything of that sort around where I live has been turned around into condos.  He plays bluegrass every once in a while.  I play jazz-rock and listen to P-Funk.

My (immediate) family moved back to Virginia a couple years ago because my dad got a job at a railroad-bearing plant up here.  We moved into one of those nice little suburbs with the colonial-façade houses all down the main street, all off some little rural highway that’s designed with the level of traffic of just the older houses right up against it.  Developers had been building new subdivisions faster than you can say rabbit!, but that all stopped with the housing bubble.  These subdivision are replacing the old, rural, rooted community, a place much like my grandfather’s Virginia.  Making it more modern, more active, bringing in growth, but taking away the distinctiveness and giving us back fake ‘colonial Virginia’ or something totally  generic.

The changing landscape of Virginia

Come to think of it, ‘replacing’ may not be the right word.  That older culture is still with us, and not just in old folks, either.  The new developments might be making it less visible, but it’s as present as ever.   And with the developments come people, people who bring with them perspectives drawn from all across America and bits of the rest of the world, too.  And something good can come of all that diversity brought together.  Growth and immigration have brought far more good than bad, and will continue to do so, and though a little bit of Virginia’s distinctiveness may get quieter in all the commotion, it will still be there for anyone to experience.

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

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane Stevens permalink
    06/25/2011 7:32 am

    Interesting all round positive perspective!

    Not sure if this is the place to write this but I am researching my English/Welsh family who went to Petersburg, Virginia around the 1880’s. I have a photo of a house and wonder if you can point me in the right direction in the Historical Society for help in possible identification?


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