African Americans and people of African descent have been a part of Virginia’s—and America’s—story since European colonization of the North American continent began. Yet the contributions of African Americans often have been ignored, obscured, or underappreciated by those who recorded history. In observance of Black History Month, the Library of Virginia and Dominion Energy honor distinguished Virginians, past and present, as Strong Men & Women in Virginia History for their important contributions to the state, the nation, or their professions. These individuals demonstrate how African Americans have actively campaigned through education and advocacy for better lives for all Americans.
The Strong Men & Women in Virginia History honorees for 2022 are labor leader Samuel H. Clark, civil rights attorney Samuel W. Tucker, Baptist minister Rev. B. H. Hester, NBA player Robert Dandridge, public historian Christy S. Coleman, and NASA engineer Christyl Johnson.
Resource materials for Strong Men & Women in Virginia History are available online through the Library of Virginia. Educators may also request posters through our contact us page. The Strong Men & Women program sends free posters to schools, and two copies of a panel exhibition travel across the state to dozens of public libraries, museums, and schools. This year’s honorees are also included in Virginia Changemakers, which features short biographies of Virginians that have been honored through the Library of Virginia’s signature programs Strong Men & Women in Virginia History (celebrating Black History Month), Virginia Women in History (celebrating Women’s History month), and New Virginians (celebrating the state’s diverse immigration history).
There’s still time to enter the annual student contest sponsored by Dominion Energy and the Library of Virginia! High school students in Virginia are invited to respond to a prompt related to Black history. Previously an essay contest, the 2022 contest includes submissions as performances (a song or a dance), digital projects (photography, digital art, a website, a digital exhibit, or a documentary) and creative writing entries (poetry, short stories). This year’s contest deadline has been extended to February 28, 2022. Four winning entries will be chosen, one each from four regions in the state (Northern, Central, Eastern, and Western). Each winner receives an Apple MacBook and $1,000 for their school, and is invited to present their winning submission at the annual Strong Men & Women in Virginia History awards program, which will be held this year on June 16.
Anyone can nominate an honoree for Strong Men & Women in Virginia History here. We strongly encourage school classes to participate; if a class’s nominee is chosen, the nominating teacher will be eligible to receive $250 toward school supplies or instructional materials, along with a complimentary three-volume set of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography for the school library. The teacher and class will also be recognized at the Strong Men & Women in Virginia History reception in Richmond. This is a chance to let students be historians and participate in the commemoration of worthy accomplishments!