Introducing Global Virginia
We are living in a time marked by intense debate about the future of immigration and how the United States should respond to those seeking refuge within its borders.
On the surface, much of the discussion has been about immigration policy, enforcement, jobs and the economy, individual rights, and personal and national security. But a deeper set of questions is emerging too—questions about who we are as a people; what it means to be an American—or a Virginian; and what kind of country we, collectively, aspire to be.
These are not new questions, either for the nation or for Virginia, and they are at the core of what we call the humanities.
Virginia never existed in isolation. By the 1650s, the Virginia Colony was already a surprisingly diverse place. The Native peoples of Virginia differed, markedly in some cases, from one another, both culturally and linguistically. So did the free and enslaved Africans who began arriving in 1619; and so did the European immigrants and refugees whose cultures mixed and blended with Native and African cultures, and with each other, over three centuries.
In this respect, Virginia’s history is more complicated, and Virginia up until the end of the 1960s was a more complicated place than is generally recognized. But it’s also true that, beginning in the 1970s, a new chapter opened in the story of “Global Virginia,” and that chapter is still being written today.
Virginia Humanities has explicitly acknowledged that promoting greater understanding of Global Virginia is an essential element of our work.
The need is not new and neither is our work in this area. What’s new is the commitment to address this subject intentionally and to actively encourage and support communities throughout Virginia in their efforts to do the same.
The stories and essays that follow offer snapshots of our recent efforts, exploring immigration and the lives of immigrant communities in Virginia. Other stories about this work and the challenges and opportunities it presents will be explored in forthcoming articles, posted quarterly.