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The Huguenots in America  

Bertrand Van Ruymbeke

The Protestant Reformation took root in France in the middle of the 16th century under the distant leadership of Jean (John) Calvin who settled in Geneva in 1541. In the 1560s, France was devastated by a series of religious and civil wars. These wars ended in 1598 when Henry IV, a former Huguenot who converted to Catholicism to access the throne, signed the Edict of Nantes. This edict protected the Huguenots. In the 17th century, however, its provisions were abrogated one by one. Daily life for the Huguenots was more and more limited and many Huguenots, especially in Northern France, converted to Catholicism. After a decade or so of legal harassment, and at times military violence, Louis XIV, whose objective was to achieve a religious reunification of his kingdom, revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Huguenots could then either convert or resist. Resistance led to imprisonment and being sent to the galleys and, for women, to convents. At least 150,000—of a population of nearly 800,000—left France, forming what has been labeled by French historians as the Refuge. Huguenots fled first to neighboring countries, the Netherlands, the Swiss cantons, England, and some German states, and a few thousand of them farther away to Russia, Scandinavia, British North America, and the Dutch Cape colony in southern Africa. About 2,000 Huguenots settled in New York, South Carolina, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island in the mid-1680s and in 1700 in Virginia. They settled in port cities, Charleston, New York, and Boston, or founded rural communities (New Paltz and New Rochelle, New York, Orange Quarter and French Santee, South Carolina, and Manakintown, Virginia). The Huguenots originally attempted to live together and founded French Reformed churches. But with time they married English settlers, were naturalized, were elected to colonial assemblies and to political offices, and joined other churches, especially the Church of England. In South Carolina and New York, they acquired slaves, a sign of their economic prosperity. By the 1720s and 1730s most Huguenots were fully integrated into colonial societies while maintaining for a decade or so the use of the French language in the private sphere and keeping ties to their original French church. In the 18th century, a new wave of Huguenot refugees mixed with French- and German-speaking Swiss formed rural communities in South Carolina (Purrysburgh, New Bordeaux) under the leadership of a colonial entrepreneur or a pastor. These communities quickly disappeared as Huguenots gradually acquired land elsewhere or moved to Savannah and Charleston. In the 1880s, Huguenot Societies were formed to commemorate the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in England, Germany, New York, and South Carolina. The memory of the Huguenot diaspora was maintained by these genealogical, historical, and patriotic societies until professional historians started to study the Refuge a century later.

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West Virginia Mine Wars  

Lou Martin

In the early 20th century, West Virginia coal miners and mine operators fought a series of bloody battles that raged for two decades and prompted national debates over workers’ rights. Miners in the southern part of the state lived in towns wholly owned by coal companies and attempted to join the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to negotiate better working conditions but most importantly to restore their civil liberties. Mine operators saw unionization as a threat to their businesses and rights and hired armed guards to patrol towns and prevent workers from organizing. The operators’ allies in local and state government used their authority to help break strikes by sending troops to strike districts, declaring martial law, and jailing union organizers in the name of law and order. Observers around the country were shocked at the levels of violence as well as the conditions that fueled the battles. The Mine Wars include the Paint Creek–Cabin Creek Strike of 1912–1913, the so-called 1920 Matewan Massacre, the 1920 Three Days Battle, and the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain. In this struggle over unionism, the coal operators prevailed, and West Virginia miners continued to work in nonunion mines and live in company towns through the 1920s.