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Roots of an Entertainment Venue

In 1886, the Shriners – also known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine – established a Richmond chapter called Acca Temple. A secret society not unlike the Masons, the Shriners embraced Orientalism, an aesthetic…

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Destroying a Community to Build a Road

After World War II, the federal GI Bill prompted a vast suburban expansion across the nation. Here in our region, cheap, subsidized tract housing lured many white Richmonders from the city to the suburbs.  Compounding that, the threat of desegregation…

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Refugees from Nazi Germany

After seizing power in Germany in 1933, the Nazis instituted a slew of anti-Jewish decrees designed to remove Jews from economic and social life. By 1935, with the passage of the Nuremberg Race Laws and the Law for the Protection…

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Separate and Unequal Education

The Virginia Constitution of 1869 established a statewide system of free public schools. The schools evolved in the 1900s with both Jim Crow restrictions and Progressive Era reforms. Even progressive movements, though, were rife with racism, and Black activists rarely had a seat at the table. Reforms were directed to segregated white schools first. Beginning in…

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Let’s Go to the Beach!

The resort area of Virginia Beach became an incorporated town in 1906, but travelers had gravitated to the beach since electrification and rail service arrived in the late 1880s. In 1887, developers built the Princess Anne Hotel, an oceanfront property…

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Educational, Cultural, and Civic Initiative

In 1938, during the Great Depression and in the shadow of Jim Crow, a group of Black mothers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded an organization to create educational, cultural, civic, and recreational programs for their children in segregated America.  From those…

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RVA Parades of Christmas Past

In 1929, a fantastic Richmond holiday tradition was born: the Christmas Toy Parade. Every year, just after Thanksgiving, families gathered on Broad Street to watch floats, bands, clowns, and local drill teams herald the arrival of the holiday season.  The…

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Racial Protests in the 1970s

In 1970, in order to satisfy a federal mandate to desegregate Richmond Public Schools, Judge Robert Merhige Jr. ordered the implementation of a busing program that would attempt to achieve racial balance in the school system. At the time of…

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Historic Beginnings

In 1890, Virginia Randolph Ellett opened a small school out of her home on Grace Street in downtown Richmond. Her students, many of whom came from the families of Richmond’s influential leaders, always referred to her as “Miss Jennie.” Beginning…

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