The Virginia Department of Historical Resources (DHR) has approved 15 new historical highway markers, many of them focusing on African-American and women’s history in Virginia.
Five of the fifteen markers were proposed by students during a historical marker contest. One marker in Hampton commemorates Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, a mathematician who worked for NASA and was featured in Hidden Figures. Johnson died at 101 earlier this year. Another marker, in Lynchburg, honors Elizabeth Langhorne Lewis who was “one of the most influential women’s suffrage activists in Virginia,” according to the proposed sign text.
A Norfolk marker will honor civil rights activist Evelyn Thomas Butts. “Butts’ advocacy helped secure voting rights for African Americans, when in 1963 she initiated a federal lawsuit asserting that Virginia’s poll tax, which citizens had to pay before they could register to vote, violated the U.S. Constitution,” a DHR press release states.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, Butts has been barely recognized in her hometown. “Evelyn was at the forefront, was a champion of rights and she has just not in my opinion been recognized for the contributions she has made,” Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander told The Virginian-Pilot.
Three of the markers will commemorate historic places. A Loudoun County marker recalls how Quakers founded what would become Waterford. “Known as Janney’s Mill after its most important enterprise, the village was renamed Waterford about 1780. By 1830, free African Americans headed a quarter of Waterford’s households,” the press release states.
A marker in Hopewell will mark Kippax Plantation, where legend says Pocahontas’ son Thomas Rolfe is buried.
The localities receiving the markers are Charlotte County, Bath County, Lynchburg, Shenadoah County, Hopewell, Loudoun County, James City County, Norfolk, Williamsburg, Hampton, and Richmond. The markers are usually paid for by local sponsors including municipalities and historical foundations. The markers cost $1,770, and there are more than 2,500 of them across Virginia, according to the DHR.
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