Tangier Island

Culture & Identity  •  Fellowships

Photo by Earl Swift
Photo by Earl Swift

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

145 Ednam Drive Charlottesville, VA

The Long Life and Prospective Demise of a Storied Island Community

Photo by Earl Swift
Photo by Earl Swift

Settled since 1778 and populated by that first family’s descendants, Tangier is one of two inhabited offshore islands in the Chesapeake Bay and a leading center for the pursuit of the bay’s famed blue crab. But throughout its recorded history it has been disappearing.

Since 1850, tiny Tangier has lost an average of eight acres of upland and marsh per year, and has thus already dwindled to a third of the size it enjoyed during the Civil War. Just in the past twenty years, erosion has also claimed the shoals and marsh that guarded the entrances to the harbor and densely settled Main Ridge. Today the island and its 470 residents are wide open to storms. A single strong hit could take it out.

And while this physical drama has unfolded, Tangier’s population is suffering a demographic collapse that threatens the feasibility of any government efforts to save it.

VFH Fellow Earl Swift has spent much of 2016 on the island chronicling its fight for survival. Join him for a discussion of what he’s discovered about this remarkable, remote Virginia island.

Free and open to the public. A casual lunch will be provided.

Reed Smith logoThe 2016-17 VFH Fellows talks are supported by a generous contribution from Reed Smith, LLP.