Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality

From
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Time Period
16,000 BCE to 1622 CE
1623 to 1763
1764 to 1824
1825 to 1860
1861 to 1876
1877 to 1924
1925 to Today
Topics
Black History
Civil Rights
Civil War
Education
Politics & Government
Women's History
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Student protest in Farmville, Prince Edward County, during the fight to desegregate schools
Students protesting school closings in Farmville, Prince Edward County, July 1963. Courtesy of Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"We are determined to be people."

-Martin Luther King, Jr. from the speech, I've Been to the Mountaintop, delivered on April 3, 1968 at Mason Temple, Memphis, Tennessee

In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in British North America, Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality examined the long history of black Americans as they have fought for freedom, equal justice, and access to opportunities. Their actions have pushed our nation ever closer to its ideal of universal equality. 

Through profiles of 30 individuals, more than 100 evocative objects, and multimedia interpretive content, Determined explored:

  • the black experience in Virginia from 1619 to 2020;

  • the pivotal role black Americans have played in shaping America’s national identity and culture; and

  • the key Virginians and Virginia events that have defined the meaning of American democracy, equality, and justice.

Four Centuries of Determination

Determined examined the ways in which the arrival of enslaved Africans in 1619 shaped the United States that we know today. The exhibition was arranged in chronological sections: The Colonial Period; American Revolution through the Civil War; Reconstruction through World War II; and the Civil Rights Movement through today.

Historic African-American Figures

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A purple wall with wooden shelves hold small cards to be filled out, with the text Who Inspires You? above it

Determined Inspiration Wall

While the Determined exhibition highlighted the inspirational stories of 30 individuals, there have been many more throughout history who have fought to make our society more equal and just. The exhibition included an interactive Inspiration Wall where the community could add stories of other heroes and inspiring figures to the exhibition. View examples to responses.

Explore the Online Exhibition

Take a virtual tour of the exhibition: 

Tour Determined with exhibition curator Dr. Karen Sherry through this VMHC interview, plus view a two-part series with C-SPAN's American History TV: African American History, 1619 Through the Civil War and African American History, Reconstruction Through Civil Rights.
View a short teaser of the Arthur Ashe Boulevard dedication ceremony, plus see a highlights video or watch the full ceremony.

Featured Artifacts

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A black and white woodcut of a person in colonial garb smoking a pipe while another person picks tobacco in the background. Text reads: Tobacco label for “Daniel’s Best Tobacco at Milend”
Tobacco label for “Daniel’s Best Tobacco at Milend”

A tobacco label for “Daniel’s Best Tobacco at Milend” from the late 17th-18th century. (Woodcut) (VMHC 2002.533.3.A-B)

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A black and white drawing of James Armistead Lafayette with writing down below.
James Armistead Lafayette

James Armistead Lafayette (with 1784 testimonial of the Marquis de Lafayette), ca. 1824. (Engraving) (VMHC 1993.215)

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A photograph of slave wrist shackles
Slave wrist shackles

Slave wrist shackles from the 17th-18th century. (Iron) (VMHC 1997.89)

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A color photograph of a token for the African Colonization Society
Token for African Colonization Society

Token for African Colonization Society from 1833. (Copper) (VMHC 2000.64)

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A painting titled "Slave Auction, Virginia" by Lefevre Cranstone
"Slave Auction, Virginia" by Lefevre Cranstone

"Slave Auction, Virginia" by Lefevre Cranstone, 1861. (Oil on canvas) (VMHC 1991.70)

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A painting titled "Slave Hunt" by Thomas Moran
"Slave Hunt" by Thomas Moran

"Slave Hunt" by Thomas Moran, ca. 1864. (Oil on canvas) (VMHC 2000.161)

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A drawing of the Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute
Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute

Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute, late 19th century. (Engraving) (VMHC 1997.190)

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A color photograph of the helmet of the Colored Knights of Pythias,
Helmet of the Colored Knights of Pythias

Helmet of the Colored Knights of Pythias, late 19th century. (Pith, leather, horsehair, and other materials) (VMHC 2013.67.A-B)

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A color photograph of a U.S. Marines Uniform from the 1940s
U.S. Marines Uniform, 1940s

U.S. Marines Uniform, worn by Sgt. Dimmiline Booth, Jr., 1943-46. (Wool and other materials) (VMHC 2002.397.1.A-C)

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A color photograph of a bust of Oliver W. Hill
Bust of Oliver W. Hill by Paul di Pasquale

Bust of Oliver W. Hill by Paul di Pasquale, ca. 2001. (Bronze) (VMHC 2007.141)

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A color photograph of a NAACP Freedom Day Brochure
“NAACP Freedom Day—Remember May 17th” Brochure

“NAACP Freedom Day—Remember May 17th” Brochure, 1954. (VMHC 2003.234.5)

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A color photograph of Arthur Ashe's tennis racket
Arthur Ashe's tennis racket

Head Company, Tennis Racket—used by Arthur Ashe. (Fiberglass and other materials) (VMHC 2005.326.1)

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A color photograph of L. Douglas Wilder's boots
L. Douglas Wilder's boots, embossed with Seal of Virginia

Lucchese, Boots, embossed with Seal of Virginia—worn by L. Douglas Wilder, early 1990s. (Leather) (VMHC 2014.40.A-B)

Associated Programming

  • Member Exhibition Preview & Reception of Determined – Thursday, June 20, 2019

  • Arthur Ashe Boulevard Dedication and Grand Opening of Groundbreaking Exhibition, Determined: The 400-Year Struggle for Black Equality – Saturday, June 22, 2019. Watch the highlights video or watch the full ceremony.

  • Virginia Journeys member trip: Lynchburg: Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum and Lynchburg Museum at the Old Court House – Wednesday, June 26, 2019. 

  • Banner Lecture: "Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad" by Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander – Thursday, July 25, 2019. Watch the video.

  • 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing: An Evening with Margot Lee Shetterly and Gladys West – Thursday, August 8, 2019. View the Facebook photo album.

  • Virginia Journeys member trip: National Museum of African American History & Culture – Wednesday, August 21, 2019. 

  • Banner Lecture: "Thurgood Marshall: A Life in American History" by Spencer R. Crew – Thursday, August 22, 2019. Watch the video.

  • Banner Lecture: "Keep On Keeping On: The NAACP and the Implementation of Brown v. Board of Education in Virginia" by Brian J. Daugherity – Thursday, September 12, 2019. Watch the video.

  • Banner Lecture: "Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth" by Kevin M. Levin – Tuesday, October 1, 2019. Watch the video.

  • Legacies of Emancipation with author Ta-Nehisi Coates – Friday, October 25, 2019.

  • Banner Lecture: "The Notorious History of the Virginia State Penitentiary" by Dale M. Brumfield – Wednesday, November 6, 2019. Watch the video.

  • Banner Lecture: "Gerrymanders: How Redistricting Has Protected Slavery, White Supremacy, and Partisan Minorities in Virginia" by Brent Tarter – Thursday, January 9, 2020. Watch the video.

  • Banner Lecture: "Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine" by Kelley Fanto Deetz – Thursday, February 27, 2020. Watch the video.

Connecting with Students, Teachers, and Families

Determined was highlighted in a special family gallery guide, school tours, teacher resource packets, onsite and online teachers institutes, and other programming suitable for young people. There was also a designated area for contemplation, study, and conversation. 


Advisory Committee

The committee consisted of 12 scholars, museum professionals, and civic leaders who bring a diverse range of expertise on black American and Virginia history to the project. 


Presented by


 


A Legacy Project of


Supporting Sponsor


Additional support provided by

Conrad and Peggy Hall, Mr. and Mrs. G. Gilmer Minor III

 

University Partners

University of Richmond, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University