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Famous Virginians

07/12/2017 - 12:23am
The Sword and the Broom: The Exceptional Career and Accomplishments of John Mercer Langston

When Glory came out in 1989, movie audiences were excited to see a relatively unknown side of the Civil War that highlighted the sacrifices of the Massachusetts 54th, a “colored” volunteer regiment. Gripping as the story that unfolded on the screen was, there was much more to it, of course. In real life, other people’s stories became part of the regiment’s history as the Civil War gripped the nation.

John Mercer Langston, along with Frederick Douglass, acted as a recruiter for the 54th. As an abolitionist and orator, he was an excellent choice, and this task was just one of Langston’s civic accomplishments. Although he had spent most of his life in a free state, John was familiar with plantation life. His father had been a white plantation owner in Louisa County, Virginia—not far from Spotsylvania. His mother had been his father’s slave. But his parents’ story was not a common one for the era. His father freed his mother, and, although they were not allowed to marry for legal reasons, they lived together as man and wife for the rest of their days, their children considered to be freeborn.

11/29/2016 - 2:36am
Cover to Escape to Virginia: From Nazi Germany to Thalhimer’s Farm

When I was a child, Thalhimer’s meant shopping—Christmas shopping in Richmond. It was one of the last grand old department stores before shopping malls took over, and it got itself gussied up for the holidays. We might come home with bars of marzipan or hermit crabs but always with stars in our eyes. It was a place of sweet and inventive dreams. Little did we know that the store’s founder had played an important part in making dreams of safety come true for many Jewish teenagers in World War II.

Robert H. Gillette’s previous book, The Virginia Plan: William B. Thalhimer and a Rescue from Nazi Germany, gave an overview of how Mr. Thalhimer managed it.  In Gillette’s current work, Escape to Virginia: From Nazi Germany to Thalhimer’s Farm, readers learn the in-depth stories of two of the rescued teenagers.

02/06/2015 - 9:49am
For Virginia and for Independence: Twenty-eight Revolutionary War Soldiers From the Old Dominion by Harry M. Ward

Virginia’s Civil War history sometimes overshadows her Revolutionary past.  In For Virginia and Independence, Dr. Ward shares fascinating, adventurous stories of soldiers, some local, whose deeds should be remembered. There’s Peter Francisco, the strongman immigrant soldier; Jack Jouett, Virginia’s Paul Revere; Anna Maria Lane, who dressed as a man and followed her husband into battle; and 25 more. 

04/09/2013 - 1:50pm

When creativity is harnessed for useful ends, that is when we get amazing inventions. Can you think of a better computer? Somebody did. Otherwise there would only be a few of them; they would be really slow--and they would take up entire rooms! Or, how about a cell phone? Those were inspired by the communicators on the original Star Trek series.

Virginia educators (and librarians!) are very interested in helping kids realize their potential in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Indeed, Virginia has a history of producing some very inventive people.

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