What do George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler and Zachary Taylor have in common? They were all born in Virginia–-making the Old Dominion the birthplace of more United States Presidents than any other state in the Union.
On Saturday, Nov. 18 at 11 a.m., Heather Cole, author of “Virginia’s Presidents: A History and Guide” will present an engaging armchair travel talk about these eight Virginia-born presidents and the sites that shaped their lives. The trip will travel the state—from Staunton to Charles City and Wytheville to Winchester—to (virtually) visit the homes and historic sites of the Virginia presidents. Attendees will learn a bit about the presidents’ lives, take a peek inside their homes, and get ideas for their next history road trip. Cole will sign copies of her book after the talk. The program will take place at the Salem Museum, and is free and open to the public.
Among these eight Virginians were those who established a new nation, drafted our founding documents, fought in numerous battles, led the country through wars and created an international peacekeeping organization. But these men also used their power to force Native Americans off their land, perpetuate the institution of slavery in new states and territories, and prevent women from obtaining the right to vote.
While some presidential homes and museums were originally founded to enshrine the memory of our Founding Fathers, most no longer uncritically celebrate their lives. Sites today expand their interpretation to include a more complicated and nuanced story about the presidents and the other men, women and children–-enslaved and free–-who supported them in their political, military, and civilian careers. The stories of these eight presidents are, by extension, the story of the nation.
Cole is a public historian and writer living in Staunton. She has worked in a variety of museum and archives, including as an interpreter for the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton. She currently works as a digital archivist for the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi and does freelance work organizing family archives, writing corporate histories and editing personal memoirs. This is her third book for The History Press.
-The Salem Times-Register