Celebrating Juneteenth: Emancipation at UVA 

This Juneteenth, we recognize Henry, a man who emancipated himself in March 1865 with the arrival of Union troops in Charlottesville. He was previously enslaved by UVA Law professor John B. Minor (1845-1895).

In a diary entry dated March 6, 1865, Minor wrote:

“The enemy got upwards of 100 horses between Meechum’s river and [the University of Virginia], and multitudes of servants went off with them, poor misguided creatures! Amongst them my boy Henry, hired in Staunton. I lament it more on his account than my own.”

Minor’s eldest daughter, Mary Lancelot Minor, penned a letter to an aunt a couple days later. She wrote that after escaping to freedom, Henry camped with Union officers on Carr’s Hill, the modern-day location of the UVA president’s home, just opposite the Rotunda. 

Beyond Henry’s moment of self-emancipation, we know little more about him. The Minor family purchased or rented his bondage in Staunton, Virginia, a small city 40 miles west of Charlottesville in the Shenandoah Valley. Through Staunton passed the Valley Pike, one turnpike within a well-traveled line of roads that connected the northeastern United States to the Deep South, modern-day Route 11. Common travelers on this road included forced caravans of enslaved people, bound for slaving markets in Georgia or South Carolina. Staunton’s position on the Valley Pike turned the city into a commercial hub for the slave trade in central Virginia.  

The Union troops that arrived in Charlottesville in March 1865 had come from the Shenandoah Valley as part of a mission to destroy Confederate-held rail lines and infrastructure. After leaving the area of the University of Virginia, they continued eastward. Henry may have followed. He may have enlisted in one of the Union army units for Black soldiers, as many free and emancipated Black men did.  

Importantly, even without additional detail, Henry’s story carries great significance for his own life. Further, his decision to emancipate himself repudiated professor John B. Minor’s claim that enslaved Black Americans preferred enslavement to freedom and were better off in forced servitude, a belief that Minor voiced to his students in his UVA Law lectures. 

Juneteenth is a celebration of emancipation and a reminder that emancipation did not come all at once for enslaved Black Americans. For the many enslaved individuals who remained at UVA after the Union troops departed, including the many whom John B. Minor enslaved, emancipation would come only after the official end of the war in April 1865. 

To learn more about UVA Law’s institutional connections to slavery, visit slavery.law.virginia.edu

Featured image: Pencil sketch of Union General Sheridan’s army following Confederate General Early through the Shenandoah Valley. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Randi Flaherty, Head of Special Collections, co-wrote this article.

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Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator at the UVA Law Library.

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BALSA and Legal Aid

UVA Law’s Black American Law Students Association (BALSA, now BLSA) formed in October 1971. Alongside the organization’s main goals of increasing student and faculty diversity, BALSA’s founding members forged their community of action through legal aid. During the 1971-1972 academic year, BALSA members took on pro bono work to provide legal counsel to underserved communities, particularly through collaborations with local legal aid groups like the CharlottesvilleAlbemarle Legal Aid Society (now the Legal Aid Justice Center, founded in 1967 by a group of Charlottesville attorneys and UVA Law students) and the Law School’s Legal Assistance Society. 

This Black History Month marks the one-year anniversary of 50 Years of BLSA, a collaborative project between Law Special Collections and the Black Law Students Association to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the organization. Read more about the project here. One year after the project, we continue to learn about BLSA through archival research and oral history interviews with alumni/ae. Shortly after the project’s debut, then-BLSA President Allison Burns ’22 heard from Bobby Vassar ’72 about the importance of legal aid work to BALSA’s founding members.

COMMUNITY SERVICE THROUGH THE LEGAL ASSISTANCE SOCIETY

Bobby Vassar ’72, James Ghee ’72, and Gwendolyn Jones Jackson ’72 were among the founding BALSA members who participated in the Law School’s Legal Assistance Society, particularly the Society’s Welfare Rights Project. The Project partnered with the Virginia Welfare Rights Organization to assist Virginia residents who requested welfare assistance, were denied, and then exercised their right to a fair hearing to reverse their verdict. Law students conducted legal investigations and advocated for their welfare candidates before a panel of local welfare officials and a hearing officer appointed by the Virginia State Board of Welfare. Project members represented Virginia residents from Albemarle, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fauquier, and Greene counties, as well as residents from the cities of Charlottesville and Lynchburg. Bobby Vassar recalled that these welfare hearings were the first of their kind in at least one of the counties they represented.

“There were very few Blacks on the [welfare] rolls in these counties because Black women with children were expected to be maids and cooks in White homes or to do other menial labor jobs, so only a few of the most disabled women with children were considered worthy of receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC, now TANF). In several instances, all or some of the local Social Services Board members attended the hearings. Things got testy in some the hearings with one Board Chairman telling Jim Ghee “I think you done said about enough there, boy”, which prompted the State hearing officer to warn him he would clear the room if there were any further such outbursts. We were able to win benefits for almost all of the families we represented as a result of favorable hearing decisions, and that encouraged other eligible Black families to apply and receive benefits. 

Bobby Vassar ’72, personal correspondence with Allison Burns ’22, 11 February 2021. 

Ghee served as the project’s director from 1971-1972, even traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada in February 1971 to assist the National Welfare Rights Organization in reversing Nevada’s cut-off of a portion of the state’s welfare payments. 

Newspaper article with headline "Ghee Joins Effort Appealing Nevada Welfare Cutoffs"
“Ghee Joins Effort Appealing Nevada Welfare Cutoffs,” Virginia Law Weekly, 19 February 1971. Click the image to read the full article on HeinOnline (Netbadge login required).

“We knew there were risks and we were willing to take them.”

Outside the Legal Assistance Society, Vassar recalled working with then-ACLU attorney John C. Lowe ’67 and fellow BALSA members James Winstead ’72, S. DeLacy Stith ’72, and William “Joe” Bass ’72 to research juror discrimination in Central Virginia. Dean Monrad Paulsen provided the law students with a letter to show local clerks of court explaining that they were part of a UVA Law-sanctioned research project. The letter allowed them access to jury rolls in six surrounding counties. 

“We would use the letters to gain access to the jury rolls to write down the names and then go meet with a pre-arranged group of local Black residents to go over the names to identify whether any of them were Black. The clerk in one county (Nottoway) became suspicious of our group of 4 Blacks and one White after seeing us writing down the names of jurors and actually called the Dean, but was not satisfied with the Dean’s explanation, so closed the office, kicked us out and called the sheriff, town police and state police. We were at the pre-arranged home going over the names we were able to write down so they were not able to find us at first, but once we got back on the highway headed home, one of the officers spotted us, called the others, stopped us and surrounded us with 3 cars of officers who got out with hands on guns to ask us what we were doing. They made us get out of the car and not accepting our “research” story, they took the White student aside and quizzed him on what he was doing with these “colored boys” and how he was making himself look bad and could get in big trouble doing such things. He held to our story and they finally let us go with a warning to us not to return. It was plenty scary, but we knew there were risks and were willing to take them.” 

Bobby Vassar ’72, personal correspondence with Allison Burns ’22, 11 February 2021. 

Vassar recalls that as a result of their research, Lowe was able to file a settlement with the six counties involved to desegregate their jury rolls. 

Vassar’s recollections and this history now appear on the Service page of our online exhibit. We encourage you to explore 50 Years of BLSA to learn more about Black history at UVA Law.

Featured image: Members of the Black American Law Students Association, Barrister 1972. Front Row: Gloria Bouldin ’73, Jean Roane ’72; Second Row: Raymond Jackson ’73, Gwendolyn Jones ’72, Arthur McFarland ’73, John Scott ’73; Third Row: Charles Walker ’73, Adolphus Williams ’72, William “Joe” Bass ’72; Fourth Row: Bobby Vassar ’72, James Winstead ’72, Jack Gravely ’72, Charles Chambliss ’73.

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Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick

Addie Patrick is the Library Coordinator at the UVA Law Library.

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Randi Flaherty

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Liberation Day in Charlottesville

On March 3, 1865, an enslaved woman named Jane set off from her home—the Sunnyside property on which the University of Virginia law and business schools now sit—and watched the Union Army march into Charlottesville. Following this arrival of the Union troops, Jane liberated herself from slavery. [1]

At Sunnyside, Jane labored as a cook. In 1865, she was in her mid-30s or early-40s and had been enslaved by the Duke family since 1859. That year, Jane had been put up for sale on the green by Court Square, the city’s site for slave auctions. Facing imminent sale to traders, Jane advocated for herself there on the green and convinced R.T.W. Duke Sr. to purchase her bondage for $1000.[2]

Jane was a skilled cook. In 1863, the Duke family moved to Sunnyside at a moment of severe wartime food scarcities. Jane “deftly” concocted stews, hash, and soups that winter from the weekly ration of beefshead.

On March 3, 1865, as the Union army under General George Armstrong Custer marched into Charlottesville, Jane ran towards the music of the Union band when it drifted across to Sunnyside.[3] She was joined by two other enslaved people from Sunnyside, including ten-year-old Caesar, as well as eleven-year-old R.T.W. Duke Jr. The group made their way up and over UVA’s modern-day intramural and softball fields. Onward towards the “martial music,” they eventually perched themselves on a hill behind the property of Andrew Brown, likely the current site of the John Paul Jones Arena or the hill above Lambeth Field.[4]

Map of Charlottesville
Map of Albemarle County, 1875, Library of Congress. Showing location of Sunnyside, the Brown property, the University of Virginia, and the route of the Union Army into Charlottesville. Digital copy available: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3883a.la001200

From her post, Jane saw the long line of Union cavalry—column after column—march into town from Ivy Road and up toward Carr’s Hill. The group watched in silence. R.T.W. Duke Jr. recalled feeling “horror & rage” at the “great blue snake.”[5] He imagined the rest of his observation party, all enslaved, watched in similar awe. For them, though, the feelings were likely quite different, even if complicated. No direct account of their reaction remains.

Shortly thereafter, Jane liberated herself from slavery and the Duke family. She was the first of the enslaved community to leave Sunnyside. Jane had departed the Dukes by the time R.T.W. Duke Sr., a Colonel in the Confederate Army, returned home after Appomattox. She may have left Charlottesville more immediately as part of the large group of free African Americans that followed the Union army out of town on March 6, 1865. In that train, according to one Union cavalry soldier, Jane would have joined other free African Americans “old and young, male and female, trudging through mud and water, animated with the thought of freedom.”[6]

As a free woman, Jane turned her cooking skills into a livelihood. In the postwar period, the Duke family heard news that Jane was living in New Jersey and working as a cook at an impressive salary.[7]

Our location on North Grounds, in the hills of the former Sunnyside property, was the setting for Jane’s bondage, as well as her liberation. Both required fortitude. Today, Charlottesville observes Liberation and Freedom Day on the 155th anniversary of the Union Army’s arrival in the city and the beginning of the liberation of the Charlottesville’s enslaved community. We honor Jane on this day.

 

Notes:

This post builds on Amalia Garcia-Pretelt’s summer 2019 research into Sunnyside and the enslaved community there.

[1] The University of Virginia purchased the Sunnyside property from the Duke family 1963. The Sunnyside house still stands and is owned by UVA. For information on Jane, this post draws on the Recollections journal of R.T.W. Duke Jr., a boy in the Duke family that enslaved Jane at Sunnyside. Duke penned his Recollections beginning in 1899 (cited hereafter as Recollections, Volume: page). For Jane running to see the Union Army, see Recollections, 1:214. Elizabeth Varon has recently written on Duke Jr.’s ideas of slavery and the “lost cause” narrative. Elizabeth Varon, “UVA and the History of Race: The Lost Cause Through Judge Duke’s Eyes,” UVA Today, September 4, 2019. https://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-and-history-race-lost-cause-through-judge-dukes-eyes

[2] Jane was likely the thirty-one-year-old mulatto woman associated with R.T.W. Duke Sr. in the 1860 federal Slave Schedule. For the Court Square episode, see Recollections, 1:20. R.T.W. Duke Jr. provided his remembrances of the enslaved community in the Duke household in Recollections, 1:17-27.

[3] R.T.W. Duke Jr. recalled this date as March 9, 1865 in his journal, but the correct date is March 3, 1865. Recollections, 1:214. For an account of the Union army’s arrival in Charlottesville, see Brendan Wolfe, “The Union Army Occupation of Charlottesville (1865),” Encyclopedia Virginia, October 28, 2019, https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Union_Occupation_of_Charlottesville_1865#start_entry.

[4] Recollections, 1:214. Andrew Brown owned the property adjacent to Sunnyside, and his “Rugby Hall” home still exists at 908 Cottage Lane, just off modern-day Rugby Road. Historic Charlottesville Tour Book (Charlottesville, VA: Albemarle County Historical Society, Inc., 2002), 81, https://www.jmrl.org/ebooks/Historic%20Charlottesville%20Tour%20Bo.PDF.

[5] Recollections, 1:141.

[6] Frederic Denison, Sabres and Spurs: The First Regiment Rhode Island Cavalry in the Civil War, 1861–1865 (Central Falls, Rhode Island: The First Rhode Island Cavalry Veteran Association, 1876), 441–444, available at Encyclopedia Virginia: https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/_quot_Sheridan_apos_s_Raid_quot_an_excerpt_from_Sabres_and_Spurs_by_Frederic_Denison_1876. Recollections, 1:20.

[7] Recollections, 1:20.

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Randi Flaherty

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Registration Opens for Third Annual Digital Archives in the Commonwealth Summit

Registration is now open for the third annual Digital Archives in the Commonwealth Summit, which will take place at the Library of Virginia on December 6, 2019. Registration is free.

The Summit is an interdisciplinary conference focused on the creation, management, and use of digital archives throughout Virginia. Building on the success of previous Summits in 2017 and 2018, this year’s gathering will focus on digital projects that address the legacies of slavery and freedom in Virginia. We welcome individuals from various fields—archivists, scholars, librarians, museum specialists, and technologists—to attend and join the conversation.

The 2019 Summit is a joint effort between the University of Virginia Law Library, the Library of Virginia, George Mason University, and the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.

You can register for the Summit here.

Panels this year include:

  • Virginia Untold: African American Narratives at the Library of Virginia
  •  Show & Tell: New & Upcoming Digital Projects from Around Virginia
  • The Stories We Tell: Complicating Institutional Narratives Through Archival Expansion
  • Community-Engaged Learning through Oral Histories and Community Archives
  • Positioning Digital Archives as Scholarly Endeavors
  • A lightning round with the opportunity for audience members to present

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Registration Opens for the Second Digital Archives in the Commonwealth Summit

Registration is now open for the second annual Digital Archives in the Commonwealth Summit, which will take place at George Mason University on November 30, 2018. We’re excited to be co-sponsoring this event along with our colleagues at George Mason University Libraries, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

The Summit is an interdisciplinary conference focused on the creation, management, and use of digital archives. We welcome individuals from various fields to attend and join the conversation—archivists, scholars, librarians, museum specialists, and technologists are all encouraged to participate. Building on the success of the inaugural Summit in 2017, this year’s conference seeks to facilitate information-sharing and reflection on the practical and theoretical considerations that shape digital archives.

Panels this year include:

  • Institutional Opportunities and Challenges in Building or Re-Imaging Digital Archives
  • Finding the Hidden in Plain Sight: The Enslaved Children of George Mason and Mason’s Legacies Projects
  • A lunch workshop on The Library of Virginia Transcription Initiative
  • Revealing Hidden Histories and Rebuilding Lost Spaces with Digital Technology
  • A lightning round with the opportunity for audience members to present

You can register and read more about the Summit here—and if you’re unable to attend in person, follow along on Twitter using #DASummit2018.

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Kate Boudouris

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Citizen Historians Wanted: Help The UVA Law Library Transcribe Historical Legal Manuscripts

In the early 1820s, a young Harvard College graduate named Jared Sparks devised a plan to preserve the early history of the United States.  Like many Americans, Sparks sensed the closing of an age. Nearly fifty years had passed since the Declaration of Independence and many of the American Revolution’s central figures were dead or soon would be. George Washington took his last breath in December 1799 at Mount Vernon, six months after Patrick Henry succumbed to stomach cancer. In the 1820s, Thomas Jefferson remained busy overseeing the creation of the University of Virginia from his home at Monticello. From there he also maintained a lively correspondence with his friend and former adversary, John Adams, who spent his remaining years at home in Quincy, Massachusetts. Yet they would soon be dead, too. 

One August day in 1823, Sparks determined to preserve the nation’s past as he meditated “on the importance of having a new History of America.” He recognized this difficult task would require him to “go to the fountain and read everything on the subject.” That meant finding original documents. Like his contemporary and fellow historian Peter Force, Sparks set out to find and transcribe copies of correspondence, reports, and a host of other material in private homes, court houses, and libraries across the nation and in Europe. He became a prolific documentary editor. Over the next thirty years he published numerous volumes, including The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution (12 vols.), Life of Gouverneur Morris (3 vols.), and The Works of Benjamin Franklin (10 vols.). His twelve volume edition of George Washington’s writings was his most significant achievement and served as a forerunner of the current Papers of George Washington Project at UVA.1 

Sparks was a citizen historian long before the development of the modern historical profession in the late nineteenth century. His efforts to collect, transcribe, and arrange manuscripts into publishable form broadened what his fellow Americans could know about their own history.  In the nineteenth century that required traveling by horse or ship to archives in a quest for manuscripts. Today, professional historians and documentary editors use slightly faster modes of transportation to reach libraries and archives, but digital technology has also allowed us to bring the archive to the scholar and public. For example, you can now read George III’s thoughts on kingship in his own hand from the comfort of your office or explore a vast array of American women’s experiences in their own voices with students in your classroom.

Technology has also made the creation of historical knowledge participatory on a grand scale. Crowdsourcing transcriptions of manuscript collections has become an important way for professional librarians and scholars at institutions and projects large and small to work with people interested in the past. Manuscripts and rare books can languish in archival boxes unseen for years, keeping the stories they tell unintentionally hidden. Digitizing the documents and asking for the public’s help to transcribe them is a means to unlock their potential for future research and a form of civic engagement with our history. 

The UVA Law Library Special Collection is delighted to announce that we have partnered with FromthePage.com to make some of our manuscripts available for public transcription. Inspired by our friends in The Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio at the University of Iowa Library and initiatives such as the Colored Conventions Project, we seek the help of citizen historians to tell the stories of the women and men who appear in our collections.

The law touches everyone in some way. That was as true in the past as it is today. The legal documents that we present on FromthePage.com capture how people in the United States, England, Scotland, and Italy lived and died. Their presence in a petition to a court, in a letter seeking favors from a government official, a catalog of their private property in a probate record, or in a lecture before eager young law students reveal much about them and the legal culture in which they lived. 

What we hope to accomplish: As Jared Sparks knew the publication of transcribed manuscripts democratized historical knowledge and made it possible for amateur and professional historians alike to write better histories. We have the same goal in mind. Producing transcriptions of the Law Library’s legal manuscripts can make the material more accessible and encourage new research. It will also enable the Special Collections librarians to create better finding aides that will make research and discovery more efficient. Using a combination of technology and interpretation, the librarians will identify subjects, key themes, and relationships that can increase a collection’s usability.  Importantly, we would like teachers to use this tool and our material in the classroom to help their students understand the complexity of the past.

How can you help: Participating is easy.  Follow these simple steps:

1. Go to FromthePage.com and create a free username and password.

2. One you are logged in, take a moment to read the “Transcription Instructions” in the Frequently asked Questions. Then go to “Collections” and look for those collections owned by “UVA School of Law Library.” Click on a collection that interests you.  (More on our available collections below).

3. In your chosen collection, review the “About” section to get a sense of the documents inside. Then investigate the “Works.” Think of “Works” like a folder of documents in a box. Select the one you want.

4. One you are inside a Work, select a document page or several to read through first before transcribing. It is important to gain a sense of an author’s handwriting and language. This will help you better understand an author’s thoughts and objectives, stylistic choices, and common trends across items. It helps, too, to read through another transcriber’s work (if available) to prepare your brain for the content you will see on the manuscript page. Previous transcriptions are important reference tools for each untranscribed page. 

Now you are ready to transcribe. Find a page to work on and click on “help transcribe this page.”

5. You will then be in transcription mode. You can adjust the position of the document to your likening. Be sure to look at the “Transcription Conventions” below the white transcription field to find information on how we would like you to transcribe the document.

6. Start to transcribe and be sure to save your work frequently. 

7. Know something about the people in one of the documents? Please feel free to put a note in the “Note” field at the bottom of the screen. The more we understand about these documents the better stories we can tell about the people in them.

We do not expect perfect transcriptions. Sometimes unclear or confusing words befuddle even the best professional documentary editor. And it is always possible that another transcriber will come after you and identify a word that you could not. You can also mark a page for formal review and leave a note for the Special Collections team should you want us to take a closer look. Documentary editing is a communal process.

What is important is the knowledge that we can begin to gleam from the transcriptions and the stories we can tell about the past. Citizens historians are crucial to making that possible. 

Manuscripts now available for transcription:

We have ranked these seven projects by degree of difficulty, which increases as one moves down the list.

1. The Papers of Roger B. Taney, 1792-1820  

Roger B. Taney practiced law in his home state of Maryland long before he became an influential member of President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet and later authored the majority opinion in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford case (1857) as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. 

Taney (1777-1864) handled many of the cases in this collection just as he began his political ascent in state politics. The papers featured here are legal documents from his practice in Frederick, Maryland. Most items fall between 1805 and 1818. A few cases deal with slaves. These papers offer a unique opportunity to examine Taney’s legal career in its formative years before he rose to national prominence. 

2. Practicing Law in the Early American Republic

The papers offered here feature documents written by major figures from the American Revolution era. These include Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and future Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; President James Monroe; future president John Quincy Adams; George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson’s mentor at the College of William and Mary; John Marshall, future chief justice of the Supreme Court; Charles Lee, the brother of Light Horse Harry Lee and uncle to Robert E. Lee; and Edmund Randolph, the first Attorney General of the United States. 

3. The Papers of John B. Minor, 1845-1893

John B. Minor joined the faculty of the University of Virginia in 1845 at the age of thirty-two. An 1843 graduate of the university, Minor began his teaching career following a decade in private practice. Minor, along with James P. Holcombe, directed the law program at UVA amidst national debates over slavery and the American Civil War. Following the war, Minor and his colleagues presided over a post-war enrollment boom that saw over 100 students in the law program. Meanwhile, Minor took an active role in reforming Virginia’s public education system and published major legal works that established his reputation as one of the South’s legal leading minds. 

The papers in this collection are wide and varied. They include Minor’s lecture notes, legal work, documentation on slaves, correspondence about secession in the Civil War, and post-war politics. They shed important light on Virginia in the Civil War era and illuminate the development of legal education during a period of national upheaval and reconstruction. 

4. The Papers of Solicitors J.M Shugar and A. W. Vaisey, 1850-1914

The documents in this collection contain the stories of nineteenth century English men and women. Solicitors J. M. Shugar and A. W. Vaisey worked as probate and property lawyers in the town of Tring, Hertfordshire, in south central England. They handled wills, estates, and personal property issues for their clients from about 1850 through 1914. Shugar practiced law in Tring from roughly 1850 until his death in 1876. Vaisey, a newly minted lawyer, took over Shugar’s practice and made it his own. Fortunately, their combined papers have survived the years and make it possible for us to know about the lives of their clients in some detail.

Estate papers are crucial for historians’ ability to reconstruct the social world in which people lived. Transcribing wills, estate inventories, and associated documents will help historians reconstruct this nineteenth century world and offer relatives new insights into their ancestors.

5. Letter book for the Receiver of Wrecks at Kingston upon Hull, England, 1855-1861

This handwritten letter book was kept for James Sparrow, who worked for the British Board of Trade as the Receiver of Wrecks at Kingston upon Hull, 1855-1861. The volume begins with an index of correspondents and subjects. While the book primarily records copies of all outgoing mail, there are frequent notes about disposition of matters or copies of replies in the margins.

The letter book offers fascinating insight into British commercial and maritime activities from Kingston upon Hull, a port community in eastern England along the North Sea. Transcribing this manuscript could help inform our understanding of British maritime activities in the mid-nineteenth century. The letters record not just merchant activity and doomed vessels, but government patronage and power. 

6. Scottish Court of Session Records Marginalia Project

This transcription opportunity is one of the most challenging and builds upon a larger initiative at the UVA Law Library to construct a digital archive and research platform centered on our Court of Session Collection. The Court of Session is Scotland’s supreme civil court and court of first instance. Eighteenth century Scottish court records are distinctive for the printed word. Unlike in England or in the American colonies and states, briefs, memorials, petitions, and depositions were printed and given to the court’s judges for their evaluation. Copies of these documents exist in other archives, but the Law Library’s are unique for the marginalia scribbled on them by their two owners, William Craig, Lord Craig, a judge on the court, and Andrew Skene, who briefly served as Scotland’s solicitor general. 

The marginalia illuminates how Craig and Skene interpreted and studied Scots Law as they participated in the making of it. Craig, who owned the papers first and had the worse handwriting of the two, scribbled over cases in which he was involved with as a lawyer before he sat on the court. Skene, who either bought or inherited Craig’s papers, added on to the collection, and made his own notations next to Craig’s. Scottish judges did not issue formal written opinions as the U.S. Supreme Court does. A clerk took note of what the judges said in conversation on the bench. Later, these decisions appeared in legal digests. Skene and Craig often wrote on their papers what the judges said in the court room, probably as they heard them say it. The marginalia pulls back the current on law making and takes us into the room as it happened. 

7. Giusticiati: Italian Manuscript List of Persons Condemned to Death in Venice, 726-1804

The law library knows very little about this manuscript. This project will require people with Italian language skills. Written in Italian and probably composed around 1804, this bound volume contains the names of 1,068 Venetians executed between 726 to 1804. It records names, dates of execution, crimes, and method of execution. Relatively few executions are listed until the late sixteenth century, and almost half of the total listed in this manuscript occurred in the seventeenth century. Crimes included conspiracy, rebellion, treason, theft, forgery, usury, homicide, sodomy, aggression and disturbing the peace. Death was usually by hanging or beheading, but occasionally included torture and display of the bodies.

Please contact Jim Ambuske (jpa4ad@virginia.edu) with any questions. 

1. Journal entry, 18 August 1823, quoted in Lester J. Cappon, Jared Sparks: The Preparation of an Editor, Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 90 (1978): 3. See this article for a concise overview of Sparks’s career in documentary editing. The UVA Law Library Special Collections owns a complete twelve-volume set of Sparks’s 1847 edition of The Writings of George Washington. Peter Force’s American Archives remains an important resource for students of the colonial period and American Revolution. The introduction to the digital edition of his Revolutionary era collection at Northern Illinois University Libraries contains a useful brief overview of his career. The site itself is a wonderful research tool. The UVA Law Library Special Collections holds a first edition set of the nine-volume printed work, which covers 1774 to 1776. Force published these volumes between 1837 and 1853.

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Jim Ambuske

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Virginia Appellate Judges Advise Legal Researchers, “Know Your Audience”

“What one piece of advice would you provide to attorneys who are presenting legal research in a brief or memo to your court?” U.Va. Law Librarian Ben Doherty asked this question of the justices and judges of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Virginia Court of Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Doherty’s article, “appellate Research Lessons from the Judges,” was published in this month’s Virginia Lawyer. It contains valuable tips from the judges, such as “analyze the cases, don’t just find them.” It’s must reading for anyone who wants to persuade judges without committing errors that can detract from the merits of an argument.

The December issue of the Virginia Lawyer features seven articles written on a range of topics by Doherty and other members of the Virginia Association of Law Libraries (VALL). 

– Amy Wharton  

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Amy Wharton

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A Brief History of Earthquakes in Virginia

We will long remember the rare and startling event that opened the fall semester at the University of Virginia this year. The August 23 earthquake, with a magnitude of 5.8, was centered near Mineral, VA, about 30 miles from Charlottesville. The jolts to the University grounds and surrounding area seemed endless as the quake’s effects were felt up and down the east coast, from northern New England to the Deep South. The hardest-hit areas in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC experienced very strong tremors (rated about VII on the Modified Mercalli scale) that toppled chimneys, broke china, and compromised the structure of national landmarks, including the Washington Monument (closed indefinitely) and the National Cathedral.

Although earthquakes of this magnitude are unusual in Virginia, the geological history of the region is more robust than many residents would have guessed. According to a graphic from the Washington Post, Virginia experiences frequent quakes that are too small to make the news: “An earthquake has been measured in or near Virginia in most months since 1980,” the Post reports. Digging even deeper into Virginia’s geological history, an article from the USGS documents a quake that rocked central Virginia in 1774 (MM intensity VII). Charlottesville had a small, localized tremor of its own on December 26, 1929, when a few bricks were shaken from chimneys (MM IV). The largest earthquake centered in Virginia in modern times was the Giles County (near Blacksburg) earthquake of May 31, 1897. The magnitude of that quake has been estimated at 5.9 (with an intensity of MM VIII), although its effects were not quite as widespread as the recent quake; tremors were reported from Georgia to Pennsylvania and westward to Indiana and Kentucky.

The southeastern region has also been shaken by major quakes originating outside of Virginia. One of the biggest was the Charleston earthquake of 1886. This quake killed more than 60 people, damaged about 2000 buildings, and was felt as far away as Boston, Chicago, and New Orleans (MM X). It damaged buildings in southern Virginian and shook up the city of Lynchburg, where William Minor Lile, who would later join the Virginia Law faculty for four decades, was getting a toehold in the legal profession. Here is an account of the quake from his personal diary, now in the University of Virginia Law Library’s Special Collections:

September 5, 1886

On the night of August 31, just a week ago, I was sitting in the office writing a letter to mother when I felt the building tremble. I stopped, looked up and around, and the whole building seemed to be quivering. I immediately comprehended the situation, and with lights burning and doors open, I sought the street, going down the steps three at a time. When I got to the street people were pouring out of the houses on all sides. It was a genuine earthquake. The press reports that Charleston, South Carolina is almost a total wreck. Every large building in the city is said to have been ruined. The people are camping out in the parks and fields. The damage done in Lynchburg was slight, and outside of Charleston I have heard of no serious damage anywhere.

We’re hopeful that the rest of the 2011-2012 school year will be academically stimulating–and geologically quiet.

– Kristin Jensen

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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