Virginia (/vərˈdʒɪniə/ ( listen); officially the
Commonwealth of Virginia) is a state in the Southeastern and
Mid-Atlantic regions of the
United States located between the
Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains.
Virginia is nicknamed
the "Old Dominion" due to its status as the first English colonial
possession established in mainland North America, and "Mother of
Presidents" because eight U.S. presidents were born there, more than
any other state. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are
shaped by the
Blue Ridge Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which
provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the
Commonwealth is Richmond;
Virginia Beach is the most populous city,
and Fairfax County is the most populous political subdivision. The
Commonwealth's estimated population as of 2017[update] is over 8.4
The area's history begins with several indigenous groups, including
the Powhatan. In 1607 the
London Company established the Colony of
Virginia as the first permanent
New World English colony. Slave labor
and the land acquired from displaced Native American tribes each
played a significant role in the colony's early politics and
Virginia was one of the 13 Colonies in the
American Revolution and joined the Confederacy in the American Civil
War, during which Richmond was made the Confederate capital and
Virginia's northwestern counties seceded to form the state of West
Virginia. Although the Commonwealth was under one-party rule for
nearly a century following Reconstruction, both major national parties
are competitive in modern Virginia.
Virginia General Assembly
Virginia General Assembly is the oldest continuous law-making body
in the New World. The state government was ranked most effective
by the Pew Center on the States in both 2005 and 2008. It is
unique in how it treats cities and counties equally, manages local
roads, and prohibits its governors from serving consecutive terms.
Virginia's economy has many sectors: agriculture in the Shenandoah
Valley; federal agencies in Northern Virginia, including the
headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense and Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA); and military facilities in Hampton Roads,
the site of the region's main seaport.
1.1 Geology and terrain
2.3 Civil War and aftermath
3 Cities and towns
6.1 Fine and performing arts
11 Law and government
14 State symbols
15 See also
18 External links
Main article: Environment of Virginia
Geographically and geologically,
Virginia is divided into five regions
from east to west: Tidewater, Piedmont, Blue Ridge Mountains, Ridge
and Valley, and Cumberland Plateau.
Virginia has a total area of 42,774.2 square miles
(110,784.7 km2), including 3,180.13 square miles
(8,236.5 km2) of water, making it the 35th-largest state by
Virginia is bordered by
Washington, D.C. to the
north and east; by the
Atlantic Ocean to the east; by North Carolina
to the south; by
Tennessee to the southwest; by
Kentucky to the west;
West Virginia to the north and west. Virginia's boundary with
Washington, D.C. extends to the low-water mark of the
south shore of the Potomac River. The southern border is defined
as the 36° 30′ parallel north, though surveyor error led to
deviations of as much as three arcminutes. The border with
Tennessee was not settled until 1893, when their dispute was brought
to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Geology and terrain
Chesapeake Bay separates the contiguous portion of the
Commonwealth from the two-county peninsula of Virginia's Eastern
Shore. The bay was formed from the drowned river valleys of the
Susquehanna River and the James River. Many of Virginia's rivers
flow into the Chesapeake Bay, including the Potomac, Rappahannock,
York, and James, which create three peninsulas in the bay.
Deciduous and evergreen trees give the
Blue Ridge Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains their
The Tidewater is a coastal plain between the Atlantic coast and the
fall line. It includes the Eastern Shore and major estuaries of
Chesapeake Bay. The Piedmont is a series of sedimentary and igneous
rock-based foothills east of the mountains which were formed in the
Mesozoic era. The region, known for its heavy clay soil, includes
Southwest Mountains around Charlottesville. The Blue Ridge
Mountains are a physiographic province of the Appalachian Mountains
with the highest points in the state, the tallest being Mount Rogers
at 5,729 feet (1,746 m). The Ridge and Valley region is west
of the mountains and includes the Great Appalachian Valley. The region
is carbonate rock based and includes Massanutten Mountain. The
Cumberland Plateau and the
Cumberland Mountains are in the southwest
corner of Virginia, south of the Allegheny Plateau. In this region,
rivers flow northwest, with a dendritic drainage system, into the Ohio
Virginia Seismic Zone has not had a history of regular earthquake
activity. Earthquakes are rarely above 4.5 in magnitude, because
Virginia is located away from the edges of the North American Plate.
The largest earthquake, at an estimated 5.9 magnitude, was in
1897 near Blacksburg. A 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck central
Virginia on August 23, 2011, near Mineral. The earthquake was
reportedly felt as far away as Toronto,
Atlanta and Florida.
Coal mining takes place in the three mountainous regions at 45
distinct coal beds near
Mesozoic basins. Over 62 million tons of
other non-fuel resources, such as slate, kyanite, sand, or gravel,
were also mined in
Virginia in 2012. The state's carbonate rock is
filled with more than 4,000 caves, ten of which are open for
tourism. 35 million years ago, a bolide impacted what is now
eastern Virginia. The resulting crater may explain sinking and
earthquakes in the region.
Main article: Climate of Virginia
Virginia state-wide averages
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
University of Virginia
University of Virginia data 1895–1998
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
The climate of
Virginia is humid subtropical and becomes increasingly
warmer and more humid farther south and east. Seasonal extremes
vary from average lows of 26 °F (−3 °C) in January to
average highs of 86 °F (30 °C) in July. The Atlantic Ocean
has a strong effect on eastern and southeastern coastal areas of the
state. Influenced by the Gulf Stream, coastal weather is subject to
hurricanes, most pronouncedly near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. In
spite of its position adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, even the coastal
areas have a significant continental influence with quite large
temperature differences between summer and winter, particularly given
the state climate's subtropical classification, which is typical of
states in the Upper South.
Virginia has an annual average of 35–45 days of thunderstorm
activity, particularly in the western part of the state, and an
average annual precipitation of 42.7 inches (108 cm). Cold
air masses arriving over the mountains in winter can lead to
significant snowfalls, such as the
Blizzard of 1996
Blizzard of 1996 and winter storms
of 2009–2010. The interaction of these elements with the state's
topography creates distinct microclimates in the Shenandoah Valley,
the mountainous southwest, and the coastal plains. Virginia
averages seven tornadoes annually, most F2 or lower on the Fujita
In recent years, the expansion of the southern suburbs of Washington,
Northern Virginia has introduced an urban heat island
primarily caused by increased absorption of solar radiation in more
densely populated areas. In the American Lung Association's 2011
report, 11 counties received failing grades for air quality, with
Fairfax County having the worst in the state, due to automobile
pollution. Haze in the mountains is caused in part by coal
See also: List of endangered species in Virginia
Forests cover 65% of the state, primarily with deciduous, broad leaf
trees in the western part of the state and evergreens and conifers
dominant the central and eastern part of Virginia. Lower altitudes
are more likely to have small but dense stands of moisture-loving
hemlocks and mosses in abundance, with hickory and oak in the Blue
Ridge. However, since the early 1990s,
Gypsy moth infestations
have eroded the dominance of oak forests. In the lowland tidewater
and piedmont, yellow pines tend to dominate, with bald cypress wetland
forests in the Great Dismal and Nottoway swamps. Other common trees
and plants include red bay, wax myrtle, dwarf palmetto, tulip poplar,
mountain laurel, milkweed, daisies, and many species of ferns. The
largest areas of wilderness are along the Atlantic coast and in the
western mountains, where the largest populations of trillium
wildflowers in North America are found. The Atlantic coast
regions are host to flora commonly associated with the South Atlantic
pine forests and lower Southeast Coastal Plain maritime flora, the
latter found primarily in eastern and central Virginia.
White-tailed deer, also known as
Virginia deer, graze at Big Meadows
in Shenandoah National Park
Mammals include white-tailed deer, black bear, beaver, bobcat, coyote,
raccoon, skunk, groundhog,
Virginia opossum, gray fox, red fox, and
eastern cottontail rabbit. Other mammals include: nutria, fox
squirrel, gray squirrel, flying squirrel, chipmunk, brown bat, and
weasel. Birds include cardinals (the state bird), barred owls,
Carolina chickadees, red-tailed hawks, ospreys, brown pelicans, quail,
seagulls, bald eagles, and wild turkeys.
Virginia is also home to the
pileated woodpecker as well as the red-bellied woodpecker. The
peregrine falcon was reintroduced into
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park in the
mid-1990s. Walleye, brook trout, Roanoke bass, and blue catfish
are among the 210 known species of freshwater fish. Running brooks
with rocky bottoms are often inhabited by plentiful amounts of
crayfish and salamanders. The
Chesapeake Bay is host to many
species, including blue crabs, clams, oysters, and rockfish (also
known as striped bass).
Virginia has 30
National Park Service
National Park Service units, such as Great Falls Park
and the Appalachian Trail, and one national park, the Shenandoah
National Park. Shenandoah was established in 1935 and encompasses
the scenic Skyline Drive. Almost 40% of the park's area
(79,579 acres/322 km2) has been designated as wilderness
under the National Wilderness Preservation System. Additionally,
there are 34
Virginia state parks and 17 state forests, run by the
Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Department of
Forestry. The Chesapeake Bay, while not a national park, is
protected by both state and federal legislation, and the jointly run
Chesapeake Bay Program which conducts restoration on the bay and its
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge extends
into North Carolina, as does the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge,
which marks the beginning of the Outer Banks.
Main article: History of Virginia
The story of Pocahontas, an ancestress of many of the First Families
of Virginia, was romanticized by later artists.
"Jamestown 2007" marked Virginia's quadricentennial year, celebrating
400 years since the establishment of the Jamestown Colony. The
celebrations highlighted contributions from Native Americans,
Africans, and Europeans, each of which had a significant part in
shaping Virginia's history. Warfare, including among these
groups, has also had an important role.
Virginia was a focal point in
conflicts from the French and Indian War, the
American Revolution and
the Civil War, to the
Cold War and the War on Terrorism. Stories
about historic figures, such as those surrounding
Pocahontas and John
Smith, George Washington's childhood, or the plantation elite in the
slave society of the antebellum period, have also created potent myths
of state history, and have served as rationales for Virginia's
Main article: Colony of Virginia
The first people are estimated to have arrived in
12,000 years ago. By 5,000 years ago more permanent
settlements emerged, and farming began by 900 AD. By 1500, the
Algonquian peoples had founded towns such as
Werowocomoco in the
Tidewater region, which they referred to as Tsenacommacah. The other
major language groups in the area were the Siouan to the west, and the
Iroquoians, who included the Nottoway and Meherrin, to the north and
south. After 1570, the Algonquians consolidated under Chief Powhatan
in response to threats from these other groups on their trade
Powhatan controlled more than 30 smaller tribes and
over 150 settlements, who shared a common
language. In 1607, the native Tidewater population was between 13,000
Several European expeditions, including a group of Spanish Jesuits,
Chesapeake Bay during the 16th century. In 1583,
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I of England granted
Walter Raleigh a charter to plant
a colony north of Spanish Florida. In 1584, Raleigh sent an
expedition to the Atlantic coast of North America. The name
"Virginia" may have been suggested then by Raleigh or Elizabeth,
perhaps noting her status as the "Virgin Queen," and may also be
related to a native phrase, "Wingandacoa," or name, "Wingina."
Initially the name applied to the entire coastal region from South
Carolina to Maine, plus the island of Bermuda. Later, subsequent
royal charters modified the Colony's boundaries. The London Company
was incorporated as a joint stock company by the proprietary Charter
of 1606, which granted land rights to this area. The company financed
the first permanent English settlement in the "New World", Jamestown.
Named for King James I, it was founded in May 1607 by Christopher
Newport. In 1619, colonists took greater control with an elected
legislature called the House of Burgesses. With the bankruptcy of the
London Company in 1624, the settlement was taken into royal authority
as an English crown colony.
Williamsburg was Virginia's capital from 1699 to 1780.
Life in the colony was perilous, and many died during the Starving
Time in 1609 and the Anglo-
Powhatan Wars, including the Indian
massacre of 1622, which fostered the colonists' negative view of all
tribes. By 1624, only 3,400 of the 6,000 early settlers
had survived. However, European demand for tobacco fueled the
arrival of more settlers and servants. The headright system tried
to solve the labor shortage by providing colonists with land for each
indentured servant they transported to Virginia. African workers
were first imported to Jamestown in 1619 initially under the rules of
indentured servitude. The shift to a system of African slavery in
Virginia was propelled by the legal cases of John Punch, who was
sentenced to lifetime slavery in 1640 for attempting to run away,
and of John Casor, who was claimed by Anthony Johnson as his servant
for life in 1655. Slavery first appears in
Virginia statutes in
1661 and 1662, when a law made it hereditary based on the mother's
Tensions and the geographic differences between the working and ruling
classes led to
Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, by which time current and
former indentured servants made up as much as 80% of the
population. Rebels, largely from the colony's frontier, were also
opposed to the conciliatory policy towards native tribes, and one
result of the rebellion was the signing at Middle Plantation of the
Treaty of 1677, which made the signatory tribes tributary states and
was part of a pattern of appropriating tribal land by force and
treaty. Middle Plantation saw the founding of The College of William
& Mary in 1693 and was renamed Williamsburg as it became the
colonial capital in 1699. In 1747, a group of Virginian
speculators formed the
Ohio Company, with the backing of the British
crown, to start English settlement and trade in the
Ohio Country west
of the Appalachian Mountains. France, which claimed this area as
part of their colony of New France, viewed this as a threat, and the
French and Indian War
French and Indian War became part of the Seven Years' War
(1756–1763). A militia from several British colonies, called the
Virginia Regiment, was led by then-Lieutenant Colonel George
1851 painting of Patrick Henry's speech before the House of Burgesses
Virginia Resolves against the Stamp Act of 1765
The British Parliament's efforts to levy new taxes following the
French and Indian War
French and Indian War were deeply unpopular in the colonies. In the
House of Burgesses, opposition to taxation without representation was
Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, among others.
Virginians began to coordinate their actions with other colonies in
1773, and sent delegates to the
Continental Congress the following
year. After the
House of Burgesses
House of Burgesses was dissolved by the royal
governor in 1774, Virginia's revolutionary leaders continued to govern
Virginia Conventions. On May 15, 1776, the Convention declared
Virginia's independence from the British Empire and adopted George
Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was then included in a
new constitution. Another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, drew upon
Mason's work in drafting the national Declaration of Independence.
American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War began,
George Washington was
selected to head the colonial army. During the war, the capital was
moved to Richmond at the urging of Governor Thomas Jefferson, who
feared that Williamsburg's coastal location would make it vulnerable
to British attack. In 1781, the combined action of Continental and
French land and naval forces trapped the British army on the Virginia
Peninsula, where troops under
George Washington and Comte de
Rochambeau defeated British
General Cornwallis in the Siege of
Yorktown. His surrender on October 19, 1781 led to peace negotiations
in Paris and secured the independence of the colonies.
Virginians were instrumental in writing the United States
James Madison drafted the
Virginia Plan in 1787 and the
Bill of Rights in 1789.
Virginia ratified the Constitution on June
25, 1788. The three-fifths compromise ensured that Virginia, with its
large number of slaves, initially had the largest bloc in the House of
Representatives. Together with the
Virginia dynasty of presidents,
this gave the Commonwealth national importance. In 1790, both Virginia
Maryland ceded territory to form the new District of Columbia,
though the Virginian area was retroceded in 1846.
called "Mother of States" because of its role in being carved into
states like Kentucky, which became the 15th state in 1792, and for the
numbers of American pioneers born in Virginia.
Civil War and aftermath
Virginia in the American Civil War
Union soldiers before Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg in May 1863
In addition to agriculture, slave labor was increasingly used in
mining, shipbuilding and other industries. The execution of
Gabriel Prosser in 1800,
Nat Turner's slave rebellion
Nat Turner's slave rebellion in 1831 and John
Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 marked the growing social
discontent over slavery and its role in the plantation economy. By
1860, almost half a million people, roughly 31% of the total
population of Virginia, were enslaved. This division
contributed to the start of the American Civil War.
Virginia voted to secede from the
United States on April 17, 1861,
Battle of Fort Sumter
Battle of Fort Sumter and Abraham Lincoln's call for
volunteers. On April 24,
Virginia joined the Confederate States of
America, which chose Richmond as its capital. After the 1861
Wheeling Convention, 48 counties in the northwest separated to form a
new state of West Virginia, which chose to remain loyal to the Union.
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern
Virginia in 1862, and led invasions into Union territory, ultimately
becoming commander of all Confederate forces. During the war, more
battles were fought in
Virginia than anywhere else, including Bull
Run, the Seven Days Battles, Chancellorsville, and the concluding
Battle of Appomattox Court House. After the capture of Richmond in
April 1865, the state capital was briefly moved to Lynchburg,
while the Confederate leadership fled to Danville.
formally restored to the
United States in 1870, due to the work of the
Committee of Nine.
During the post-war Reconstruction era,
Virginia adopted a
constitution which provided for free public schools, and guaranteed
political, civil, and voting rights. The populist Readjuster Party
ran an inclusive coalition until the conservative white Democratic
Party gained power after 1883. It passed segregationist Jim Crow
laws and in 1902 rewrote the
Constitution of Virginia
Constitution of Virginia to include a
poll tax and other voter registration measures that effectively
disfranchised most African Americans and many poor European
Americans. Though their schools and public services were
segregated and underfunded due to a lack of political representation,
African Americans were able to unite in communities and take a greater
Pre-Dreadnought and World War I-era warships were built in
Newport News, including the USS Virginia.
New economic forces also changed the Commonwealth. Virginian James
Albert Bonsack invented the tobacco cigarette rolling machine in 1880
leading to new industrial scale production centered on Richmond. In
1886, railroad magnate
Collis Potter Huntington
Collis Potter Huntington founded Newport News
Shipbuilding, which was responsible for building six major World War
I-era battleships for the
U.S. Navy from 1907 to 1923. During the
war, German submarines like U-151 attacked ships outside the port.
In 1926, Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, rector of Williamsburg's Bruton Parish
Church, began restoration of colonial-era buildings in the historic
district with financial backing of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Though
their project, like others in the state, had to contend with the Great
Depression and World War II, work continued as Colonial Williamsburg
became a major tourist attraction.
Virginia Civil Rights Memorial
Virginia Civil Rights Memorial was erected in 2008 to commemorate
the protests which led to school desegregation.
Protests started by
Barbara Rose Johns
Barbara Rose Johns in 1951 in Farmville against
segregated schools led to the lawsuit Davis v. County School Board of
Prince Edward County. This case, filed by Richmond natives Spottswood
Robinson and Oliver Hill, was decided in 1954 with Brown v. Board of
Education, which rejected the segregationist doctrine of "separate but
equal". But, in 1958, under the policy of "massive resistance" led by
the influential segregationist Senator
Harry F. Byrd
Harry F. Byrd and his Byrd
Organization, the Commonwealth prohibited desegregated local schools
from receiving state funding.
The civil rights movement gained many participants in the 1960s. It
achieved the moral force and support to gain passage of national
legislation with the
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights
Act of 1965. In 1964 the
United States Supreme Court
United States Supreme Court ordered Prince
Edward County and others to integrate schools. In 1967, the Court
also struck down the state's ban on interracial marriage with Loving
v. Virginia. From 1969 to 1971, state legislators under Governor Mills
Godwin rewrote the constitution, after goals such as the repeal of Jim
Crow laws had been achieved. In 1989,
Douglas Wilder became the first
African American elected as governor in the United States.
Cold War led to the expansion of national defense government
programs housed in offices in
Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C.,
and correlative population growth. The Central Intelligence
Agency in Langley was involved in various
Cold War events, including
as the target of Soviet espionage activities. Also among the federal
developments was the Pentagon, built during
World War II
World War II as the
headquarters for the Department of Defense. It was one of the targets
of the September 11 attacks; 189 people died at the site when a jet
passenger plane was crashed into the building.
Cities and towns
Main article: Political subdivisions of Virginia
Largest cities or towns in Virginia
Virginia counties and cities by population in 2010
Virginia is divided into 95 counties and 38 independent cities, the
latter acting in many ways as county-equivalents. This general
method of treating cities and counties on par with each other is
unique to Virginia; only three other independent cities exist
elsewhere in the United States, each in a different state.
Virginia limits the authority of cities and counties to countermand
laws expressly allowed by the
Virginia General Assembly
Virginia General Assembly under what is
known as Dillon's Rule. In addition to independent cities, there
are also incorporated towns which operate under their own governments,
but are part of a county. Finally there are hundreds of unincorporated
communities within the counties.
Virginia does not have any further
political subdivisions, such as villages or townships.
Virginia has 11 Metropolitan Statistical Areas; Northern Virginia,
Hampton Roads, and
Richmond-Petersburg are the three most populous.
Richmond is the capital of Virginia, and its metropolitan area has a
population of over 1.2 million. As of 2010[update], Virginia
Beach is the most populous city in the Commonwealth, with Norfolk and
Chesapeake second and third, respectively. Norfolk forms the
urban core of the
Hampton Roads metropolitan area, which has a
population over 1.6 million people and is the site of the world's
largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk. Suffolk, which
includes a portion of the Great Dismal Swamp, is the largest city by
area at 429.1 square miles (1,111 km2).
Fairfax County is the most populous locality in Virginia, with over
one million residents, although that does not include its county
seat Fairfax, which is one of the independent cities. Fairfax
County has a major urban business and shopping center in Tysons
Corner, Virginia's largest office market. Neighboring Prince
William County is Virginia's second most populous county, with a
population exceeding 450,000, and is home to Marine Corps Base
FBI Academy and Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Loudoun County, with the county seat at Leesburg, is both the
fastest-growing county in
Virginia and has the highest median
household income ($114,204) in the country as of 2010[update].
Arlington County, the smallest self-governing county in the United
States by land area, is an urban community organized as a county.
The Roanoke area, with an estimated population of 300,399, is the
largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in western Virginia.
Main article: Demographics of Virginia
Source: 1860 1910–2010
Hampton Roads metropolitan area is home to the first British
colony in the Americas, and currently has a population exceeding 1.7
United States Census Bureau
United States Census Bureau estimates that the state population
was 8,411,808 on July 1, 2016, a 5.1% increase since the 2010 United
States Census. This includes an increase from net migration of
381,969 people into the Commonwealth since the 2010 census.
Immigration from outside the
United States resulted in a net increase
of 159,627 people, and migration within the country produced a
net increase of 155,205 people. As of 2000, the center of
population is located in Goochland County, near Richmond.
Aside from Virginia, the top birth state for Virginians is New York,
North Carolina in the 1990s, with the Northeast
accounting for the largest number of migrants into the state by
The state's most populous ethnic group, Non-Hispanic White, has
declined as a proportion of population from 76% in 1990 to 62.7% in
2015, as other ethnicities have increased. In 2011,
non-Hispanic Whites were involved in 50.9% of all the births.
People of English heritage settled throughout the Commonwealth during
the colonial period, and others of British and Irish heritage have
since immigrated. Those who identify on the census as having
"American ethnicity" are predominantly of English descent, but have
ancestors who have been in North America for so long that they choose
to identify simply as American. Of the English immigrants to
Virginia in the 17th century, 75% came as indentured servants.
The western mountains have many settlements that were founded by
Scots-Irish immigrants before the American Revolution. There
are also sizable numbers of people of German descent in the
northwestern mountains and Shenandoah Valley. On the 2010
American Community Survey, 11.7% said they were of German
ancestry. 2.9% of Virginians also describe themselves as
The largest minority group in
Virginia is African American, at 19.7%
as of 2015[update]. Most African-American Virginians have been
descendants of enslaved Africans who worked on tobacco, cotton, and
hemp plantations. The first generations of enslaved men, women and
children were brought from West and West-Central Africa, primarily
Angola and the Bight of Biafra. The Igbo ethnic group of what is
Nigeria were the single largest African group among
slaves in Virginia. Many African Americans also have European and
Native American ancestry. Though the black population was reduced by
the Great Migration to northern industrial cities in the first half of
the 20th century, since 1965 there has been a reverse migration of
blacks returning south. According to the Pew Research Center, the
state has the highest number of black-white interracial marriages in
More recent immigration in the late 20th century and early 21st
century has resulted in new communities of Hispanics and Asians. As of
2015[update], 9.0% of Virginians are Hispanic or Latino (of any race),
and 6.5% are Asian. The state's Hispanic population rose by 92%
from 2000 to 2010, with two-thirds of Hispanics in the state living in
Northern Virginia. Hispanic citizens in
Virginia have higher
median household incomes and educational attainment than the general
state population. There is a large Salvadoran population in the
DC suburbs of Northern Virginia, and a large Puerto Rican
population in the
Hampton Roads region of Southeast Virginia.
Northern Virginia also has a significant population of Vietnamese
Americans, whose major wave of immigration followed the Vietnam
War. Korean Americans have migrated more recently, attracted by
the quality school system. The
Filipino American community has
about 45,000 in the
Hampton Roads area, many of whom have ties to the
U.S. Navy and armed forces.
Additionally, 0.5% of Virginians are American Indian or
and 0.1% are
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Virginia
has extended state recognition to eight Native American tribes
resident in the state; six of these gained federal recognition as
tribes in 2018, and two were already recognized. Most Native American
groups are located in the Tidewater region.
Largest ancestries by county
American Community Survey
American Community Survey 5-year estimate
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
American Indian and
As of 2011, 49.1% of Virginia's population younger than age 1 were
minorities (meaning that they had at least one parent who was not
As of 2010[update], 85.87% (6,299,127) of
Virginia residents age 5 and
older spoke English at home as a primary language, while 6.41%
(470,058) spoke Spanish, 0.77% (56,518) Korean, 0.63% (45,881)
Vietnamese, 0.57% (42,418) Chinese (which includes Mandarin), and
Tagalog was spoken as a main language by 0.56% (40,724) of the
population over the age of five. In total, 14.13% (1,036,442) of
Virginia's population age 5 and older spoke a mother language other
than English. English was passed as the Commonwealth's official
language by statutes in 1981 and again in 1996, though the status is
not mandated by the Constitution of Virginia.
The Piedmont region is known for its dialect's strong influence on
Southern American English. While a more homogenized American English
is found in urban areas, various accents are also used, including the
Tidewater accent, the Old
Virginia accent, and the anachronistic
Elizabethan of Tangier Island.
See also: Religion in early Virginia
Virginia is predominantly Christian and Protestant;
Baptists are the
largest single group with 27% of the population as of
2008[update]. Baptist congregations in
Virginia have 763,655
members. Baptist denominational groups in
Virginia include the
Baptist General Association of Virginia, with about 1,400 member
churches, which supports both the
Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptist Convention and the
moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; and the Southern Baptist
Virginia with more than 500 affiliated churches,
which supports the Southern Baptist Convention. Roman
Catholics are the second-largest religious group with 673,853
members. The Roman
Catholic Diocese of Arlington includes most of
Catholic churches, while the Diocese of Richmond
covers the rest.
Christ Church in Alexandria was frequented by
George Washington and
Robert E. Lee.
Virginia Conference is the regional body of the United Methodist
Church in most of the Commonwealth, while the Holston Conference
represents much of extreme Southwest Virginia. The
Virginia Synod is
responsible for the congregations of the Lutheran Church.
Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Congregationalist, and Episcopalian
adherents each composed less than 2% of the population as of
2010[update]. The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Southern
Virginia, and Southwestern
Virginia support the various Episcopal
In November 2006, 15 conservative Episcopal churches voted to split
from the Diocese of
Virginia over the ordination of openly gay bishops
and clergy in other dioceses of the Episcopal Church; these churches
continue to claim affiliation with the larger Anglican Communion
through other bodies outside the United States. Though
allows parishioners to determine their church's affiliation, the
diocese claimed the secessionist churches' buildings and properties.
The resulting property law case, ultimately decided in favor of the
mainline diocese, was a test for Episcopal churches nationwide.
Among other religions, adherents of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints constitute 1% of the population, with 200
Virginia as of 2017[update]. Fairfax Station is
the site of the Ekoji Buddhist Temple, of the
Jodo Shinshu school, and
Durga Temple. While the state's Jewish population is small,
organized Jewish sites date to 1789 with Congregation Beth
Muslims are a growing religious group throughout the
Commonwealth through immigration. Megachurches in the
Commonwealth include Thomas Road Baptist Church, Immanuel Bible
Church, and McLean Bible Church. Several Christian universities
are also based in the state, including Regent University, Liberty
University, and Lynchburg College.
Main article: Economy of Virginia
Virginia locations by per capita income
Virginia counties and cities by median household income (2010).
Virginia is an employment-at-will state; its economy has diverse
sources of income, including local and federal government, military,
farming and business.
Virginia has 4.1 million civilian workers,
and one-third of the jobs are in the service sector. The
unemployment rate in
Virginia as of 2017[update] is 3.8%, which is
below the national average. The second fastest job growth town in
the nation is Leesburg, as of 2011[update]. The Gross Domestic
Virginia was $492 billion in 2016. According to the
Bureau of Economic Analysis,
Virginia had the most counties in the top
100 wealthiest in the
United States at sixteen counties based upon
median income in 2007.
Northern Virginia is the highest-income
region in Virginia, having six of the twenty highest-income counties
in the United States, including the two highest as of
2008[update]. According to CNN Money Magazine the highest-income
town in the nation is Great Falls, as of 2011[update]. According
to a 2013 study by Phoenix Marketing International,
Virginia had the
seventh-largest number of millionaires per capita in the United
States, with a ratio of 6.64%.
The Department of Defense is headquartered in Arlington at The
Pentagon, the world's largest office building.
Virginia has the highest defense spending of any state per capita,
providing the Commonwealth with around 900,000 jobs.
Approximately 12% of all U.S. federal procurement money is spent in
Virginia, the second-highest amount after California. Many
Virginians work for federal agencies in Northern Virginia, which
Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense,
as well as the National Science Foundation, the United States
Geological Survey and the
United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Many others work for government contractors, including defense and
security firms, which hold more than 15,000 federal contracts.
Virginia has one of the highest concentrations of veterans of any
state, and is second to
California in total Department of Defense
Hampton Roads area has the largest
concentration of military personnel and assets of any metropolitan
area in the world, including the largest naval base in the world,
Naval Station Norfolk. In its state government,
106,143 public employees, who combined have a median income of
$44,656 as of 2013[update].
Ocean tourism is an important sector of
Virginia Beach's economy.
Virginia has the highest concentration of technology workers of any
state, and the fourth-highest number of technology workers after
California, Texas, and New York. Computer chips became the
state's highest-grossing export in 2006, surpassing its traditional
top exports of coal and tobacco combined, reaching a total export
value of $717 million in 2015. Northern Virginia, once considered
the state's dairy capital, now hosts software, communication
technology, defense contracting companies, particularly in the Dulles
The state has the highest average and peak Internet speeds in the
United States, with the third-highest worldwide. Northern
Virginia's data centers can carry up to 70% of the nation's internet
traffic, and in 2015 the region was the largest and fastest
growing data center market in the nation.
Forbes magazine named
Virginia the best state in the nation
for business for the fourth year in a row, while
CNBC named it
the top state for business in 2007, 2009, and 2011. Additionally,
in 2014 a survey of 12,000 small business owners found
Virginia to be
one of the most friendly states for small businesses. Virginia
Fortune 500 companies, ranking the state eighth
Tysons Corner is one of the largest business
districts in the nation.
Virginia supported an estimated 210,000 jobs and generated
$21.2 billion in 2012. Arlington County is the top tourist
destination in the state by domestic spending, followed by Fairfax
County, Loudoun County, and
Rockingham County is Virginia's leading county in agriculture.
As of 2007[update], agriculture occupied 32% of the land in Virginia
and about 357,000 Virginian jobs were in agriculture, with over
47,000 farms, averaging 171 acres (0.27 sq mi;
0.69 km2), in a total farmland area of 8.1 million acres
(12,656 sq mi; 32,780 km2). Though agriculture has
declined significantly since 1960 when there were twice as many farms,
it remains the largest single industry in Virginia. Tomatoes
surpassed soy as the most profitable crop in
Virginia in 2006, with
peanuts and hay as other agricultural products. Although it is no
longer the primary crop,
Virginia is still the fifth-largest producer
of tobacco nationwide.
Virginia is the largest producer of seafood on the East Coast, with
scallops, oysters, blue crabs, and clams as the largest seafood
harvests by value, and France, Canada, and
Hong Kong as the top export
Eastern oyster harvests have increased from
23,000 bushels in 2001 to over 500,000 in 2013. Wineries and
vineyards in the
Northern Neck and along the
Blue Ridge Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains also
have begun to generate income and attract tourists.
the fifth-highest number of wineries in the nation.
Virginia collects personal income tax in five income brackets, ranging
from 3.0% to 5.75%. The state sales and use tax rate is 4.3%, while
the tax rate on food is 1.5%. There is an additional 1% local tax, for
a total of a 5.3% combined sales tax on most
Virginia purchases and
2.5% on most food. Virginia's property tax is set and collected
at the local government level and varies throughout the Commonwealth.
Real estate is also taxed at the local level based on 100% of fair
market value. Tangible personal property also is taxed at the local
level and is based on a percentage or percentages of original
Main article: Culture of Virginia
Colonial Virginian culture, language, and style are reenacted in
Virginia's culture was popularized and spread across America and the
South by figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and
Robert E. Lee. Their homes in
Virginia represent the birthplace of
America and the South. Modern
Virginia culture has many sources,
and is part of the culture of the Southern United States. The
Smithsonian Institution divides
Virginia into nine cultural
Besides the general cuisine of the Southern United States, Virginia
maintains its own particular traditions.
Virginia wine is made in many
parts of the state. Smithfield ham, sometimes called "Virginia
ham", is a type of country ham which is protected by state law, and
can only be produced in the town of Smithfield. Virginia
furniture and architecture are typical of American colonial
Thomas Jefferson and many of the state's early leaders
Neoclassical architecture style, leading to its use for
important state buildings. The
Pennsylvania Dutch and their style can
also be found in parts of the state.
Virginia often deals with the state's extensive and
sometimes troubled past. The works of
Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen
Glasgow often dealt with social inequalities and the role of women in
her culture. Glasgow's peer and close friend James Branch Cabell
wrote extensively about the changing position of gentry in the
Reconstruction era, and challenged its moral code with Jurgen, A
Comedy of Justice.
William Styron approached history in works
such as The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie's Choice. Tom
Wolfe has occasionally dealt with his southern heritage in bestsellers
like I Am Charlotte Simmons. Mount Vernon native Matt Bondurant
received critical acclaim for his historic novel The Wettest County in
the World about moonshiners in Franklin County during
Virginia also names a state Poet Laureate.
Fine and performing arts
See also: Music of Virginia
The Meadow Pavilion is one of the theaters at Wolf Trap National Park
for the Performing Arts.
Rich in cultural heritage,
Virginia however ranks near the bottom of
U.S. states in terms of public spending on the arts, at nearly half of
the national average. The state government does fund some
institutions, including the
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the
Science Museum of Virginia. Other museums include the popular Steven
F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the
National Air and Space Museum
National Air and Space Museum and the
Chrysler Museum of Art. Besides these sites, many open-air
museums are located in the Commonwealth, such as Colonial
Williamsburg, the Frontier Culture Museum, and various historic
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities works to
improve the Commonwealth's civic, cultural, and intellectual
Theaters and venues in the Commonwealth are found both in the cities
and suburbs. The Harrison Opera House, in Norfolk, is home of the
Virginia Opera. The
Virginia Symphony Orchestra operates in and around
Hampton Roads. Resident and touring theater troupes operate from
American Shakespeare Center
American Shakespeare Center in Staunton. The Barter Theatre,
designated the State Theatre of Virginia, in Abingdon won the first
Regional Theatre Tony Award in 1948, while the Signature Theatre in
Arlington won it in 2009. There is also a Children's Theater of
Virginia, Theatre IV, which is the second largest touring troupe
Virginia has launched many award-winning traditional musical artists
and internationally successful popular music acts, as well as
Virginia is known for its tradition in the music
genres of old-time string and bluegrass, with groups such as the
Carter Family and Stanley Brothers, as well as gospel, blues, and
shout bands. Contemporary
Virginia is also known for folk rock
Dave Matthews and Jason Mraz, hip hop stars like Pharrell
Williams and Missy Elliott, as well as thrash metal groups like GWAR
and Lamb of God. Notable performance venues include The
Birchmere, the Landmark Theater, and Jiffy Lube Live. Wolf Trap
National Park for the Performing Arts is located in Vienna and is the
only national park intended for use as a performing arts center.
Chincoteague Pony Swim features over 200 wild ponies
swimming across the
Assateague Channel into Chincoteague.
Many counties and localities host county fairs and festivals. The
Virginia State Fair
Virginia State Fair is held at the
Meadow Event Park
Meadow Event Park every September.
Also in September is the
Neptune Festival in
Virginia Beach, which
celebrates the city, the waterfront, and regional artists. Norfolk's
Harborfest, in June, features boat racing and air shows. Fairfax
County also sponsors Celebrate Fairfax! with popular and traditional
music performances. The
Virginia Lake Festival is held during the
third weekend in July in Clarksville. Wolf Trap hosts the Wolf
Trap Opera Company, which produces an opera festival every
summer. Each September, Bay Days celebrates the
Chesapeake Bay as
well as Hampton's 400-year history since 1610, and Isle of Wight
County holds a County Fair on the second week of September as well.
Both feature live music performances, and other unique events.
On the Eastern Shore island of Chincoteague the annual Pony Swim &
Auction of feral Chincoteague ponies at the end of July is a unique
local tradition expanded into a week-long carnival. The Shenandoah
Apple Blossom Festival is a six-day festival held annually in
Winchester that includes parades and bluegrass concerts. The Old Time
Fiddlers' Convention in Galax, begun in 1935, is one of the oldest and
largest such events worldwide. Two important film festivals, the
Virginia Film Festival and the VCU French Film Festival, are held
annually in Charlottesville and Richmond, respectively.
Main articles: List of newspapers in Virginia, List of radio stations
in Virginia, and List of television stations in Virginia
USA Today, the nation's most circulated newspaper, has its
headquarters in McLean.
Hampton Roads area is the 45th-largest media market in the United
States as ranked by Nielsen Media Research, while the
Richmond-Petersburg area is 57th and Roanoke-Lynchburg is 66th as of
Northern Virginia is part of the much larger
Washington, D.C. media market.
There are 36 television stations in Virginia, representing each major
U.S. network, part of 42 stations which serve
More than 720 FCC-licensed FM radio stations broadcast in Virginia,
with about 300 such AM stations. The nationally available
Public Broadcasting Service
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is headquartered in Arlington.
Independent PBS affiliates exist throughout Virginia, and the
Arlington PBS member station
WETA-TV produces programs such as the PBS
NewsHour and Washington Week.
The most circulated native newspapers in the Commonwealth are
The Virginian-Pilot (142,476 daily subscribers), the
Richmond Times-Dispatch (108,559), and
The Roanoke Times
The Roanoke Times (78,663), as
of 2014[update]. Several
Washington, D.C. papers are based in
Northern Virginia, such as
The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner and Politico. The
paper with the nation's widest circulation, USA Today, with 1.83
million daily subscriptions, is headquartered in McLean. Besides
traditional forms of media,
Virginia is the home base for
telecommunication companies such as
Voxant and XO Communications. In
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is the dominant newspaper,
since Northern VA is located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
Main article: Education in Virginia
The University of Virginia, a World Heritage Site, was founded by
President Thomas Jefferson.
Virginia's educational system consistently ranks in the top ten states
on the U.S. Department of Education's National Assessment of
Educational Progress, with
Virginia students outperforming the average
in all subject areas and grade levels tested. The 2011 Quality
Counts report ranked Virginia's K–12 education fourth best in the
country. All school divisions must adhere to educational
standards set forth by the
Virginia Department of Education, which
maintains an assessment and accreditation regime known as the
Standards of Learning to ensure accountability. In 2010, 85% of
high school students graduated on-time after four years. Between
2000 and 2008, school enrollment increased 5%, the number of teachers
Public K–12 schools in
Virginia are generally operated by the
counties and cities, and not by the state. As of 2011[update], a total
of 1,267,063 students were enrolled in 1,873 local and
regional schools in the Commonwealth, including three charter schools,
and an additional 109 alternative and special education centers
across 132 school divisions. Besides the general public
schools in Virginia, there are Governor's Schools and selective magnet
schools. The Governor's Schools are a collection of more than 40
regional high schools and summer programs intended for gifted
Virginia Council for Private Education oversees the
regulation of 320 state accredited and 130 non-accredited
private schools. An additional 24,682 students receive
As of 2011[update], there are 176 colleges and universities in
Virginia. In the 2017 U.S. News & World Report ranking of
national public universities, the
University of Virginia
University of Virginia is ranked No.
College of William and Mary
College of William and Mary is No. 6,
Virginia Tech is No. 27,
George Mason University is No. 71, and
University is No. 87.
Virginia Commonwealth is also ranked
the No. 1 public graduate school in fine arts, while James Madison
University is ranked the No. 8 regional university in The
Virginia Military Institute
Virginia Military Institute is the oldest state
Virginia State University
Virginia State University and Virginia
Tech are the state's land-grant universities.
Virginia also operates
23 community colleges on 40 campuses serving over
260,000 students. There are 129 private institutions in the
state, including nationally ranked liberal arts colleges Washington
and Lee University at No. 11, the
University of Richmond
University of Richmond at No. 27,
Virginia Military Institute
Virginia Military Institute at No. 72. Liberty
University is Virginia's largest university, with an enrollment total
of greater than 110,000 students.
Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, part of the
Hampton Roads based
Sentara Health System
Sentara Health System and a teaching institution of Eastern Virginia
Medical School, was the site of the first successful in-vitro
Virginia has a mixed health record, and is ranked as the 26th overall
healthiest state according to the 2013 United Health Foundation's
Virginia also ranks 21st among the states in the
rate of premature deaths, 6,816 per 100,000. In 2008,
its lowest ever rate of infant mortality, at 6.7 deaths
per 1,000. There are however racial and social health
disparities, in 2010 African Americans experienced 28% more premature
deaths than whites, while 13% of Virginians lack any health insurance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2009
survey, 26% of Virginians are obese and another 35% are overweight.
78% of residents claim to have exercised at least once in the past
three months. About 30% of Virginia's 10- to 17-year-olds
are overweight or obese.
Virginia banned smoking in bars and
restaurants in January 2010. 19% of Virginians smoke
tobacco. Residents of
Virginia's 8th congressional district
Virginia's 8th congressional district share
the longest average life expectancy rate in the nation, over 83
There are 89 hospitals in
Virginia listed with the United States
Department of Health and Human Services. Notable examples include
Inova Fairfax Hospital, the largest hospital in the Washington
Metropolitan Area, and the VCU Medical Center, located on the medical
Virginia Commonwealth University. The University of Virginia
Medical Center, part of the
University of Virginia
University of Virginia Health System, is
highly ranked in endocrinology according to U.S.News & World
Virginia has a ratio of 127 primary care physicians per
10,000 residents, which is the 16th highest nationally. Virginia
was one of five states to receive a perfect score in disaster
preparedness according to a 2008 report by the Trust for America's
Health, based on criteria such as detecting pathogens and distributing
vaccines and medical supplies.
Main article: Transportation in Virginia
Located at the confluence of major bridges, roads, bus lines, and
Rosslyn station in Arlington is the biggest choke point
Washington Metro system. Arlington accounts for 40% of
Virginia's public transit trips.
Because of the 1932 Byrd Road Act, the state government controls most
of Virginia's roads, instead of a local county authority as is usual
in other states. As of 2011[update], the
Virginia Department of
Transportation owns and operates 57,867 miles (93,128 km) of the
total 70,105 miles (112,823 km) of roads in the state, making it
the third largest state highway system in the United States.
Although the Washington Metropolitan Area, which includes Northern
Virginia, has the second worst traffic in the nation,
Virginia as a
whole has the 21st-lowest congestion and the average commute time is
Virginia hit peak car usage before the
year 2000, making it one of the first such states.
The main terminal of
Washington Dulles International Airport
Washington Dulles International Airport is one of
the few surviving examples of Space Age architecture.
Amtrak passenger rail service along several corridors,
Virginia Railway Express
Virginia Railway Express (VRE) maintains two commuter lines into
Washington, D.C. from Fredericksburg and Manassas. VRE is one of the
nation's fastest growing commuter rail services, handling nearly
20,000 passengers a day. The
Washington Metro rapid transit
Northern Virginia as far west as communities along I-66
in Fairfax County, with expansion plans to reach Loudoun County by
2017. Major freight railroads in
Virginia include Norfolk
Southern and CSX Transportation. Commuter buses include the Fairfax
Connector and the
Shenandoah Valley Commuter Bus. The Virginia
Department of Transportation operates several free ferries throughout
Virginia, the most notable being the Jamestown-Scotland ferry which
James River in Surry County.
Virginia has five major airports: Washington Dulles International and
Reagan Washington National in Northern Virginia, both of which handle
over 20 million passengers a year; Richmond International; and Newport
News/Williamsburg International Airport and Norfolk International
Hampton Roads area. Several other airports offer limited
commercial passenger service, and sixty-six public airports serve the
state's aviation needs. The
Virginia Port Authority's main
seaports are those in Hampton Roads, which carried 17,726,251 short
tons (16,080,984 t) of bulk cargo in 2007, the sixth most of
United States ports. The
Eastern Shore of Virginia
Eastern Shore of Virginia is the site of
Wallops Flight Facility, a rocket testing center owned by NASA, and
the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, a commercial spaceport.
Space tourism is also offered through Vienna-based Space
Law and government
Main article: Government of Virginia
Virginia State Capitol, designed by
Thomas Jefferson and
Charles-Louis Clérisseau, is home to the
Virginia General Assembly.
In colonial Virginia, free men elected the lower house of the
legislature, called the House of Burgesses, which together with the
Governor's Council, made the "General Assembly". Founded in 1619, the
Virginia General Assembly
Virginia General Assembly is still in existence as the oldest
legislature in the Western Hemisphere. In 2008, the government
was ranked by the Pew Center on the States with an A− in terms of
its efficiency, effectiveness, and infrastructure, tied with
Washington. This was the second consecutive time that Virginia
received the highest grade in the nation.
Since 1971, the government has functioned under the seventh
Constitution of Virginia, which provides for a strong legislature and
a unified judicial system. Similar to the federal structure, the
government is divided in three branches: legislative, executive, and
judicial. The legislature is the General Assembly, a bicameral body
whose 100-member House of Delegates and 40-member Senate write the
laws for the Commonwealth. The Assembly is stronger than the
executive, as it selects judges and justices. The Governor and
Lieutenant Governor are elected every four years in separate
elections. Incumbent governors cannot run for re-election, however the
Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General can, and governors may serve
non-consecutive terms. The judicial system, the oldest in
America, consists of a hierarchy from the Supreme Court of Virginia
Court of Appeals of Virginia to the Circuit Courts, the trial
courts of general jurisdiction, and the lower General District Courts
and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts.
Code of Virginia
Code of Virginia is the statutory law, and consists of the
codified legislation of the General Assembly. The
Police is the largest law enforcement agency in Virginia. The Virginia
Capitol Police is the oldest police department in the United
Virginia National Guard
Virginia National Guard consists of
7,500 soldiers in the
Virginia Army National Guard
Virginia Army National Guard and
1,200 airmen in the
Virginia Air National Guard. Since the
resumption of capital punishment in
Virginia in 1982, 107 people have
been executed, the second highest number in the nation. The
"total crime risk" is 28% lower than the national average. Since
Virginia ended prisoner parole in 1995, the rate of recidivism has
fallen to 28.3%, among the lowest nationwide.
Virginia is an
Main article: Politics of Virginia
See also: Democratic Party of Virginia, Green Party of Virginia,
Independent Greens of Virginia, Libertarian Party of Virginia,
Political party strength in Virginia, and Republican Party of Virginia
Presidential elections results
Over the 20th century,
Virginia shifted from a largely rural,
politically Southern and conservative state to a more urbanized,
pluralistic, and politically moderate environment. Up until the 1970s,
Virginia was a racially divided one-party state dominated by the Byrd
Organization. The legacy of slavery in the state effectively
disfranchised African Americans until after passage of civil rights
legislation in the mid-1960s. Enfranchisement and immigration of
other groups, especially Hispanics, have placed growing importance on
minority voting, while voters that identify as "white
working-class" declined by three percent between 2008 and 2012.
Regional differences play a large part in
Rural southern and western areas moved to support the Republican Party
in response to its "southern strategy", while urban and growing
suburban areas, including much of Northern Virginia, form the
Democratic Party base. Democratic support also persists in
union-influenced Roanoke in Southwest Virginia, college towns such as
Charlottesville and Blacksburg, and the southeastern Black Belt
Political party strength in Virginia has likewise been in flux. In the
2007 state elections, Democrats regained control of the State Senate,
and narrowed the Republican majority in the House of Delegates to
eight seats. Yet elections in 2009 resulted in the election of
Bob McDonnell as Governor by a seventeen-point margin, the
election of a Republican Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, as
well as Republican gains of six seats in the House of Delegates.
In 2011, the Republican caucus took over two-thirds (68–32) of the
seats in the House of Delegates, and a majority of the Senate based on
the Lieutenant Governor
Bill Bolling as the tie-breaker.
Following the 2013 elections, Democrat
Terry McAuliffe was elected
Governor by two percentage points, and Democrat Ralph
Northam was elected Lieutenant Governor by double digits.
Republicans, however, maintained their super-majority (68–32) in the
House of Delegates. State election seasons traditionally
start with the annual
Shad Planking event in Wakefield.
In federal elections since 2006, both parties have seen successes.
Republican Senator George Allen lost close races in 2006, to
Democratic newcomer Jim Webb, and again in 2012, to Webb's
replacement, former Governor Tim Kaine. In 2008, Democrats won
United States Senate
United States Senate seats; former Governor
Mark Warner was
elected to replace retiring Republican John Warner. The state
went Republican in 13 out of 14 presidential elections from 1952 to
2004, including 10 in a row from 1968 to 2004. However, Democrat
Barack Obama carried Virginia's 13 electoral votes in both the 2008
and 2012 presidential elections. In the 2010 elections,
Republicans won three
United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives seats
from the Democrats. Of the state's eleven seats in the House of
Representatives, Republicans hold seven and Democrats hold four.
Virginia is considered a "swing state" in future presidential
In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton
carried Virginia, marking the third consecutive win for the Democratic
Party at the presidential level and the first time the state gave its
electoral votes to a Democrat who did not win the national Electoral
Vote, since 1924. In contrast, the state gave
Donald J. Trump
Donald J. Trump the
smallest percentage of Virginian votes for any Republican Party
presidential nominee since
Thomas E. Dewey
Thomas E. Dewey in 1948.
See also: Sports teams in Virginia
Virginia Tech Hokies football team has the second-longest bowl
game streak in the nation.
Virginia is the most populous
U.S. state without a major professional
sports league franchise. The reasons for this include the lack of
any dominant city or market within the state, the proximity of teams
Washington, D.C. and North Carolina, and a reluctance to publicly
finance stadiums. However, in recent years, the city of
Virginia Beach has proposed a new arena designed to lure a major
league franchise. Norfolk is host to two minor league teams: The AAA
Norfolk Tides and the ECHL's Norfolk Admirals. The San Francisco
Giants' AA team, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, began play at The
Diamond in 2010, replacing the AAA Richmond Braves, who relocated
after 2008. Additionally, the Washington Nationals, Boston Red
Sox, Cleveland Indians,
Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York
Toronto Blue Jays also have Single-A and Rookie-level
farm teams in Virginia. The state is also home to United Soccer
League club, the Richmond Kickers.
Washington Redskins have Redskins Park, their headquarters, in
Ashburn and their training facility is in Richmond, and the
Washington Capitals train at
Kettler Capitals Iceplex
Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston.
Virginia has many professional caliber golf courses including the Greg
Norman course at Lansdowne Resort and Kingsmill Resort, home of the
Kingsmill Championship, an
LPGA Tour tournament.
schedules Sprint Cup races on two tracks in Virginia: Martinsville
Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.
currently competing in the series include
Denny Hamlin and Elliott
Virginia does not allow state appropriated funds to be used for either
operational or capital expenses for intercollegiate athletics.
Despite this, both the
Virginia Cavaliers and
Virginia Tech Hokies
have been able to field competitive teams in the Atlantic Coast
Conference and maintain modern facilities. Their rivalry is followed
statewide. Twelve other universities compete in NCAA Division I,
particularly in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Big South Conference, and
Colonial Athletic Association. Three historically black schools
compete in the Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic
Association, and two others compete in the Division I Mid-Eastern
Athletic Conference. Several smaller schools compete in the Old
Dominion Athletic Conference and the
USA South Athletic Conference
USA South Athletic Conference of
NCAA Division III. The NCAA currently holds its Division III
championships in football, men's basketball, volleyball and softball
Main article: List of
Virginia state symbols
The state slogan, "
Virginia is for Lovers," was developed in 1968 and
is featured on the state's welcome signs
The state nickname is its oldest symbol, though it has never been made
official by law.
Virginia was given the title "Dominion" by King
Charles II of England
Charles II of England at the time of The Restoration, because it had
remained loyal to the crown during the English Civil War, and the
present moniker, "Old Dominion" is a reference to that title. Charles'
supporters were called Cavaliers, and "The
Cavalier State" nickname
was popularized after the
American Civil War
American Civil War to romanticize the
antebellum period. Sports teams from the
University of Virginia
University of Virginia are
called the Cavaliers. The other nickname, "Mother of Presidents",
is also historic, as eight Virginians have served as President of the
United States, including four of the first five.
The state's motto, Sic Semper Tyrannis, translates from Latin as "Thus
Always to Tyrants", and is used on the state seal, which is then used
on the flag. While the seal was designed in 1776, and the flag was
first used in the 1830s, both were made official in 1930. The
majority of the other symbols were made official in the late 20th
Virginia reel is among the square dances classified
as the state dance. In March 2015, after 20 years without a state
Virginia received two: "Our Great Virginia" (official
traditional state song) and "Sweet
Virginia Breeze" (official popular
state song). In 1940,
Virginia made "Carry Me Back to Old
Virginny" the state song, but it was retired in 1997 and reclassified
as the state song emeritus.
Virginia big-eared bat
Beverages: Milk, Rye Whiskey
Chesapeake Bay deadrise
Dance: Square dancing
Dog: American Foxhound
Fish: Brook trout, striped bass
Fossil: Chesapecten jeffersonius
Insect: Tiger swallowtail
Motto: Sic Semper Tyrannis
Nickname: The Old Dominion
Shell: Eastern oyster
Virginia is for Lovers
Songs: "Our Great Virginia", "Sweet
United States portal
Index of Virginia-related articles
Outline of Virginia
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Coordinates: 37°30′N 79°00′W / 37.5°N 79°W / 37.5;
ISNI: 0000 0004 0458 885X