The debate over the Bottom has already produced one very important outcome. It has exposed an unconscionable gap in our understanding of a significant, yet woefully underdeveloped, Virginia legacy: the prominent role our state played in American slavery.
Virginia’s contributions began even before the nation’s founding, when Virginia colonists helped to weave human bondage into the fabric of America. In the decades after the first Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia led in formulating the slave codes, which differentiated slaves from indentured servants, restricted human and civil rights and applied the term “slave” primarily to persons of African descent.
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Stacy Burrs is CEO of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. Contact him at email@example.com. Roice D. Luke, Ph.D., is a member of the board of directors of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.