American Evolution: Virginia history comes alive with multi-million dollar campaign

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. — You’ve heard about the American Revolution, but what about the American Evolution?

A multi-million dollar campaign launched Wednesday to celebrate the 2019 Commemoration of 400 years of Virginia History. It was created by the Virginia General Assembly under the brand “American Evolution.”

Executive director of the program Kathy Spangler says there’s “no question” that what happened in 1619 influences us today.

“Virginia’s history is America’s history and what happened here…has affected each and every one of us across this great land,” she said.

Governor Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) signed a proclamation recognizing the initiative. He and Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) invited school children who were in the audience up to the stage to be with them because youth “are our future.”

American Evolution highlights the voices not often taught in school. 

“The stories of courageous women, African Americans and Virginia Indians…that forever altered the course of history and continue to influence us today,” Gov. Northam said.

Some of those influences from colonial days also serve us now. During the first representative legislative assembly in 1619, officers that later became the Virginia Division of Capitol Police protected Virginians in Jamestown.

You can see them now in gray and blue uniforms, patrolling the steps of the Capitol.

Sgt. Dianne Dowdy has been with the department for 34 years. “It was a man’s world,” Dowdy says when she started. There was only a handful of women working there.

“It’s a great place to work. Being right at the seat of government, seeing it all go round,” she said.

Today, Dowdy was part of the Capitol Police Honor Guard recognizing the big commemoration.

“Knowing that I was part of history being made…It’s another chapter in the book for women in law enforcement and for the history Capitol Police,” Dowdy added.

While the programming is educational, it also aims to draw more visitors to the Commonwealth.  

In total, Spangler says the Commonwealth will invest about $24 million in American Evolution. Private partners have also put in about $3.5 million.

Spangler says they expect about 6 million people will participate in the hundreds of events scheduled throughout the year.

Making history accessible to all, through technology, is also a big aspect of American Evolution.

“This history is in your hand, that you can access the commemoration anywhere anytime,” Spangler said.

There’s an app you can download to your phone that shows you history markers right near you. On the program’s website, there’s also a list of events happening across the Commonwealth.

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