Browse Exhibits (25 total)

Motives of the American Colonization Society During the Liberian Movement


The American Colonization Society was formed by abolitionists, religious leaders, and formerly enslaved people to emigrate free blacks and form a black society in Liberia. This society formed in 1816 after Reverend Robert Finley gathered a following who and believed blacks could never be fully integrated into American society. Many Founding Fathers were supporters of the movement and wrote letters to government leaders to aid society members. The ACS raised money to fund the transport of free blacks to Liberia so they could make their own nation separate from Whites. While certain groups held similar motives for the export of blacks to Liberia, the true motive for the ACS was to preserve the United States as a white-dominated union and allow blacks with the opportunity to create their own guild elsewhere. 


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The Masons and the Mexican-American war


When one thinks about the impacts of the Mason family, typically Texas is not the first item to come to one's mind.  However suprising enough, the Mason family did have a significant impact on Texas in the Mexican-American war.  

Contextually speaking, the Mexican-American war was not one of the lighter sides of American military history.  No, this is one of the stains that America has to wear. Many historians and past presidents have reffered to the forceful taking of land as very aggressive and in no way defendable.  With this knowledge, it makes the war a very important one to study and look at impacts

Three members of the Mason family made their way to Mexico to fight in the war, Lieutenant George Thomson Mason, Captain Stevens Thomson Mason, and Richard Barnes Mason. 

Steven Porter


Exploring Bastardy in Early America and Its Impact Today

Depending on who you are and what you were taught from a very young age, each American has their own idea of what early America was like. However, many of the views that we were taught to have in elementary school about the Founding Fathers and patriotism are being challenged left and right by historians who are discovering lots of conflicting evidence about the stories being told to the children of America.Obviously, many opinions have changed on the subject of children born out-of-wedlock; however, in the 18th century, it was quite the scandalous topic. Depending on your social status, race, and gender, being caught in such a situation could mean bad news for both the person involved and their child. It was such a crime that the children suffered for it. An anonymous bastard wrote into a local magazine stating, “ I had the misfortune to come illegally into the world, and am therefore branded with the name of Bastard: but I assure you, I was by no means an accessory in the fornication which gave me birth ; and therefore I think it a hardship that disgrace should be imputable to me, who, in the business alluded to, never violated any law, civil, common, or ecclesiastical.” [1] It was such a burden for this man to just be born, because he was punished for the wrongdoing of parents. This is how much of an offense the crime was. Most often women would be caught; however, there are instances when men also had to pay for the consequences of their actions. The laws at the time forbid several things that were considered morally wrong including fornication, bastardy, and interracial marriage. Many were affected by these societal standards. Historians have discussed bastardy and the bigger conversation of controversial laws that have since been amended or forgotten. The conversation is very vast and covers several topics from racial prejudice to gender bias.


[1] A Bastard. “Cursory Remarks on Bastardy.” Universal Asylum, & Columbian Magazine, June 1792. 359.

Capital crime and punishment in Virginia from 1750-1865

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The idea of capital punishment was not new to the North American colonies and, eventually, the United States.  It was a concept that may have seemed simple but was complicated by the nuances of race and class in the new government and society that was forming. As a result, it is as complex and multifaceted as race and class.

This exhibit will primarily detail capital crimes and punishments in Virginia and how they were affected by race and class.

Monument Mania: Memorializing George Washington

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George Washington is certainly considered a hero of American history. He is often seen as the father of this country and is hailed as one of, if not the, greatest founding fathers. In the 18th and 19th centuries in particular, Washington was a celebrity and even before his death the public scrambled to construct monuments to Washington. Despite this perceived greatness, Washington’s status as a slaveholder is often forgotten. Very few, if any, monuments to Washington acknowledge the enslaved people that he owned and even Mount Vernon struggles to associate Washington with slavery. This project examines how George Washington's legacy is constructed through the memorials we construct to him and who is forgotten in his legacy.

This exhibit will focus on three memorials to Washington; the equestrian statue of Washington in New York, the Virginia Washington Monument, and the two memorials to enslaved people at Mount Vernon. These monuments each reveal different aspects of George Washington's legacy and demonstrate the importance of monuments and tha narratives that are told through them. 

The Longstanding Legacy of the Concepts of the American Revolutions


     This hopes to serve as an examination of the revolutionary nature of the documents of the American Revolutions. It will consider the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and its many predecessors. 

     There is a prevailing cultural notion that the American revolution marked not only the foundation of this country, but the foundation of a new type of liberty, expanded rights of man, and generally revolutionized concepts of individual freedom. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, a massive influence to the American Bill of Rights, as well as significant legacy of Founding Father George Mason, is one of these revolution era documents. This research indicates that while the Virginia Declaration of Rights codified important concepts of liberty and contributed to the growth of democratic values in the new America, it was not a significant departure from previous understanding of the rights of men.

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A Comparative Analysis of the 1768 and 1769 Norfolk Anti-Inoculation Riots


"Let our opinions vary as they will": John Randolph Jr and Dissent


Studies of loyalist voices in the American Revolution range far and wide, from the loyalist diaspora across the globe, individual fishing and farming communities in a geographic region, and the many races and cultures of loyalists in the British West Indies. While we increasingly hear different groups of loyalist voices, a micro-history can provide an effective way to understand why well-intentioned people chose to remain loyal.

John Randolph, swimming against the rising tide of American rebellion that his son Edmund Randolph, his brother Peyton Randolph, and his cousin Thomas Jefferson, were embracing, followed the loyalist path that eventually forced him to emigrate to London. However, little evidence exists of how this man, so well-connected to rebels, came to his life-altering decision. Uncovering Randolph's loyalist life and legacy requires understanding how colonists in the late eighteenth century were practicing dissent.

Research into his own writings shows that Randolph was devoted, literally until his death, to the colony of Virginia and what it was and could become. This dichotomy of loyalty to Great Britain and life-long dedication to Virginia, the land of his birth, is worth understanding for its integrity and unique experiences. Other reasons to uncover Randolph’s voice include understanding his consistently civil dissent in a turbulent, often violent conversation; and his unique arguments and reasoning for loyalty that went beyond the thinking of the loyal masses and which showed his continuing conviction of the need for security in the eventual independence of the colonies.

This project explores a unique and passionate voice advocating on behalf of the colonies, while placing that voice within the dissenting culture in which it was heard or rejected. This project also acknowledges that dissenting voices that are 250 years old can inform current challenges navigating civil dissent in the modern era.

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The Timeless Meaning of George Washington's Image

An Indian in America - How the Powhatan Influenced Jamestown Culture

413 years ago English colonists landed in central Virginia, intent on the creation of a Colony called Virginia. 1 year later, in 1607 they founded Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. Upon landing, they met representatives of the Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom, a large polity controlled by the paramount chief, Powhatan. The interactions between the two peoples were extensive and immesnly impactful on both parties. Despite these interactions, a view of the Powhatan 200 years later would seem to confirm that the Powhatan had been thouroughly if not completely influenced by the Virginians. Their political independance had been removed, their residences shifted, and many of their traditions altered to fit into English Virginian culture. Numerous books have been written on the affects of colonialsm on the Powhatan, but very few have discussed how the Powhatan in turn influenced Jamestown and the greater Virginia Colony.  In general, most of the work covering Jamestown either ignores the Powhatan culture or focuses predominantly on how the contact affected the Powhatan culture and lifestyles. The early interactions between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan were dominated by trade and warfare. In both of these activies, the cultural traditions and understands of the English settlers were impacted by the Powhatan.