Norfolk, Virginia has a long history with great historical importance. It is the city of my birth, so Norfolk, Virginia is my hometown. I remember as a young child of hearing stories about Norfolk. Today, it is certainly time to show its history and culture in 2016. It is a city that has the second largest population in any city of Virginia. It has the largest Naval base in the world. It is found in the Elizabeth River, the Chesapeake Bay, and it surrounds the Lafayette River. To the North of Norfolk, we have Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, and other locations. To the east of Norfolk lies Virginia Beach. To the south of Norfolk is Chesapeake. Portsmouth and Suffolk is to the west of Norfolk too. All of these locations make up the major cities of Hampton Roads (which is the region that is found in Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina). Norfolk is an independent city with many diverse people. It has been through economic issues, racial tensions, and economic problems. Yet, it is still in existence today. As a military oriented city, NATO people, Naval people, Army people, and other people of the military are found here. Numerous neighborhoods in Norfolk (like from Downtown to Norview, Park Place, Ocean View, Berkeley, Olde Huntersville, Park Place, Lamberts Point, Sherwood Forrest, etc.) go back long decades and centuries. Today, Norfolk is growing and it was founded in 1682. It is the corporate headquarters of Norfolk Southern Railway, which is one of North America’s principal Class I railroads and Maersk Line, Limited (which manages the world’s largest fleet of U.S. flag vessels). Norfolk, Virginia is surrounded by interstate highways, bridges, and tunnels.
In the beginning, Norfolk, Virginia was inhabited by Native Americans. Native Americans lived in Virginia from ca. 9,500 B.C. In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh (or an European explorer) searched for a place to establish a permanent English settlement in North America. In mid-July of that year, two of his ships landed in Roanoke Island (or Dare County today). They found the Chesepian Native Americans there according to the journal of Arthur Barlowe (or one of Raleigh’s commanders). Barlowe mentioned that the local Chesepians claimed that a nearby city called Skicoak, which was the Chesepians’ greatest city. The real location of Shicoak has been undetermined. The colony of Raleigh disappeared mysteriously. Jamestown settlers came to Cape Henry (o in Virginia Beach) by April 1607. They found no traces of Skicoak. William Strachey’s “The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britanica” from 1612 mentioned that the Chesepians had been wiped out by Chief Wahunsunacock (or known as Chief Powhatan), the head of the Virginia Peninsula based Powhatan Confederacy in the intervening years.
The Colonial Era
The Native Americans continued to live in the land, but more Europeans traveled into Virginia. From 1607 to 1775 was the colonial period in Norfolk, Virginia.
The Governor of the Virginia Colony in 1607 was Sir George Yeardley. In that year, he formed four incorporations (called “citties”) for the developed part of the colony. The citties were to form the basis of the government of the colony. This government of the colony was part of the newly created House of Burgesses. The southeastern portion of Hampton Roads was under the Elizabeth Cittie incorporation. In 1622, Adam Thoroughgood (1604-1640) of King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England was one of the first Englishmen to settle in the area of South Hampton Roads which included Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, etc. Adam was an indentured servant and he had to pay for the passage to the Virginia Colony. After being an indentured servant, he was a leading citizen of the fledgling colony.
At the same time, there were struggles at Jamestown. The Virginia Colony became bankrupt and had its royal charter revoked by King James I in 1624. Virginia became a crown colony. At this time, King James gave 500 acres of land to Thomas Willoughby in what is now the Ocean View section of the city. Willoughby spit is named after Thomas Willoughby. During this time, the population of the Virginia colony about 5,000 people. In 1629, Thoroughgood was elected to the House of Burgesses for Elizabeth Cittie. Five years later, in 1634, the King had the colony reorganized under a system of 8 shires, with much of the Hampton Roads region becoming part of Elizabeth City Shire. In 1636, Thoroughgood was granted a large land holding along the Lynnhaven River for having persuaded 105 people to settle in the colony. Thoroughgood is also credited with suggesting the name of Norfolk, in honor of his birthplace. New Norfolk County was created when the South Hampton Roads portion of Elizabeth City Shire was partitioned off in that same year. During this reorganization, King James gave another 200 acres to Willoughby.
This land would be the city of Norfolk in the future. By 1637, New Norfolk County was split into two counties. They were Upper Norfolk County and Lower Norfolk County. The modern city of Norfolk is located in Lower Norfolk. The English couple William and Susannah Moseley migrated with their family to Lower Norfolk County in 1649. On the Eastern Branch Elizabeth River or 5 miles from Norfolk, they built a manor with the Dutch style gambrel roof. This was called Rolleston Hall. It stood up for more than 200 years until it was burned down in the late 19th century. The evil of slavery existed in Norfolk too. By 1670, a royal decree from England wanted the “building of storehouses to receive imported merchandise ... and tobacco for export" for each of the colony's 20 counties. This marked the beginning of Norfolk's importance as a port city, due to its natural deepwater channels. Soon after 1673, the "Half Moone" fort at the site of what is now Town Pointe Park. This fort was constructed due to feared attack by the Dutch, but this threat did not materialize. Norfolk quickly grew in size, and by 1682 a charter for the establishment of the "Towne of Lower Norfolk County" had been issued by Parliament. Norfolk was one of only three cities in the Virginia Colony to receive a royal charter, the other two being Jamestown and Williamsburg. The town at first was part of a land northeast of the point of the confluence of the Eastern and Southern Branches of the Elizabeth River (that point is in downtown). By 1691, a final county subdivision took place when Lower Norfolk County was split to form Norfolk County (which is present Day Norfolk, Chesapeake, and parts of Portsmouth) and Princess Anne County (or present day Virginia Beach). Norfolk was incorporated in 1705 and re-charted as a borough in 1736. In 1756, Lt. Governor Robert Dinwiddle presented the growing city of 4,000 (or Norfolk) with a 41 inch long, 104 ounce silver mace. The mace was a symbol of the royal authority and is currently displayed in the Chrysler Museum of Art.
By 1774, Norfolk developed into one of the most prosperous cities in Virginia. It was a major shipbuilding center and an important trans-shipment point for the export of goods like tobacco, corn, cotton, and timer from Virginia, North Carolina, to the British Isles and beyond. Goods from the West Indies like rum and sugar including finished manufactured products from England were imported back through Norfolk and shipped to the rest of the lower colonies. Much of the West Indies and American colonial products that flowed through the harbor were by this time produced with the use of slave labor.
The Revolutionary War.
Norfolk was a strong base of Loyalist support throughout the start of the American Revolution. A Loyalist is a person who lived in America, but this person supported the British Crown plus the redcoats. In the early summer of 1775, Lord Dunmore (the last Royal Governor of the Colony of Virginia) tried to reestablish control of the colony from Norfolk. In November, a battle took place at Kemp’s Landing. This provided Dunmore and the loyalists a clear victory. Yet, the war was escalating. The governor immediately issued Dunmore’s Proclamation. This promised freedom to any rebel-owned slave who joined His Majesty’s forces. At the end of November, Dunmore set up a stronghold in Norfolk. He demolished 30 houses in the course of its construction. A few days later, based on false intelligence received, Dunmore's 600 soldiers were defeated in the Battle of Great Bridge, where 102 of Dunmore's soldiers were killed or injured, compared with just one injured soldier for the patriots. Dunmore and their loyalists fled Norfolk and boarded their ship, thus ending 168 years of British colonial rule in Virginia.
Dunmore remained in the river off Norfolk with a small squadron of armed ships and on New Year's Day 1776, Lord Dunmore's ships began a bombardment that escalated into the Burning of Norfolk. British troops also went ashore to burn down all the waterfront buildings- and thus played right into the hands of their enemies. The rebels were quite happy to see a largely Loyalist city destroyed, happier still to be able to blame it on the British, and over the next two days they encouraged the spread of fires, while looting unburned houses. The Virginia Assembly found that of the 882 houses burned during the two days, only 19 had been set alight by the British. A further 416- in effect all that remained standing- were destroyed in February 1776 to prevent the British from using them as cover if they returned. Only Saint Paul's Episcopal Church survived the bombardment and subsequent fires, however the church was dented by a cannonball fired by the Liverpool. In 1792, the Myers House was constructed after the Revolutionary War. It was one of the first brick buildings to be constructed after the Revolution. It was built by the famous Moses Myers (who was a shipping merchant who came to Norfolk in 1787 from New York).
The Antebellum Period
The antebellum period of Norfolk, Virginia lasted from 1783 to 1861. 4 years after the Revolutionary War, a fire existed on the city’s waterfront. It destroyed 300 buildings and the city experienced a serious economic setback. By the turn of the 19th century, Fort Norfolk was constructed by the Federal government to guard the harbor. In 1800, the First Baptist Church on Bute Street was established in Norfolk as the city’s first predominantly black congregation. In 1801, the first Continental Navy Yard was established in Norfolk, VA.
During the 1820’s, the agricultural communities of South Hampton Roads experienced a recession. This resulted in the emigration of families from the region to other areas of the South like in the frontier areas being opened for settlement. From 1820 to 1830, there was a drop in overall population of about 15,000 in Norfolk, despite the fact that other urban areas experienced significant population growth. Southern states like Virginia including other states had slavery. Virginia had a mixed agricultural economy. Some people wanted slavery to be phased out via law (like Thomas Jefferson Randolph’s 1832 resolution) or “repatriate” black people to Africa to establish a colony in Liberia. The American Colonization Society (ACS), established in 1816, was the largest of groups founded for that purpose. Many emigrants from Virginia and North Carolina embarked for Africa from Norfolk. One such emigrant was Joseph Jenkins Roberts (an African American man), a native of Norfolk who would go on to become the first president of Liberia. Active emigration through the ACS came to an end following the Civil War. In 1824, French soldier and statesman Marquis de Lafayette (who was involved in the American and French Revolutions) revisited Norfolk and Portsmouth. He goes to a Grand Ball.
In 1840, Norfolk’s population was 10,920 for the borough proper (not including the rest of the county). Education and culture developed. By 1841, there was an ambition new school building completed for Norfolk Academy. It was designed by Homas U. Walter. He wanted it to be a replica of the temple of Theseus in Athens. In 1845, Norfolk was incorporated as a city. In 1850, the city’s population was about 14,000 persons including 4,000 enslaved African Americans and 1,000 free African Americans. There was the growth of transportation. In 1832 the steam ferry Gosport began service, linking Norfolk and Portsmouth. In 1851, the Commonwealth authorized the charter of an 80-mile (130 km) railroad connecting busy port of Norfolk and the growing industrial city of Petersburg. Completed in 1858, this important line was the predecessor of today's Norfolk Southern Railway. By 1855, yellow fever existed in Norfolk, Portsmouth, and other areas of Hampton Roads. It caused by the ship Benjamin Franklin coming into Portsmouth for urgent repairs. The city’s health officer found something strange. The ship was held in anchor in harbor for 11 days. The captain claimed that the ship was free of disease. Days of the ship’s docking, yellow fever came to people whose homes were near the wharf. In July, the epidemic was in full outbreak in Hampton Roads. Over 3,000 people in the region and 2,000 of them in Norfolk died. In its peak, 100 people died per day in Norfolk alone. In 1856 the Sisters of Charity founded St. Vincent's Hospital, in part as a reaction to the previous year's epidemic. The population didn’t reach its 1850 census again until after the Civil War.
Near the Harbor Park baseball field, there were Underground Railroad escape routes. The Underground Railroad was a system of paths in America where slaves would go into, so they can escape into North and some went into Canada. His network was made up of black people and white people in creating safe houses. There were scouts, and other leaders who freed thousands of slaves. In Norfolk, Virginia, the route was in Higgins’ Wharf and Wright’s Wharf leading to the Elizabeth River. So, slaves would go into the area near Harbor Park. They would secretly board ships sailing for the North like the Augusta. The ships would charge legal passengers $7 dollars for passage to New York (meals included) in the mid-nineteenth century, departing Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 6:30 a.m. Abolitionists helped the Underground Railroad in massive ways.
The Civil War
The American Civil War was one of the most important events in human history. Norfolk, Virginia had a huge amount of history in the Civil War. By early 1861, Norfolk voters instructed their delegate to vote for the ratification of the ordinance of secession. Soon, Virginia voted to secede from the Union. Richmond became the capital of the Confederacy and the Civil War started. When Virginia joined the Confederacy, they demanded the surrender of all Federal property in their state, including the Norfolk Navy Yard (then called Gosport Shipyard). Failure for an elaborate Confederate ruse orchestrated by civilian railroad builder, and future Confederate general (William Mahone) the Union shipyard commander Charles Stewart McCauley ordered the burning of the shipyard and the evacuation of its personal to Fort Monroe across the Hampton Roads. The capture of the shipyard allowed a tremendous amount of war material to fall into Confederate hands including the remains of the burned and scuttled naval frigate USS Merrimac. In the spring of 1862, the remains of the USS Merrimac were rebuilt at Norfolk Navy Yard as an ironclad. It was remained the CSS Virginia. The Battle of Hampton Roads began on March 8, 1862.
The battle would ultimately ended in a stalemate however, as neither navy was able to do significant damage to the other due to the heavy armor plating. Over the next several months, CSS Virginia tried in vain to engage the Monitor, but the USS Monitor was under strict orders not to fight unless absolutely necessary. On May 6, while the Union Army under General B. McClellan was fighting the Peninsula Campaign, President Abraham Lincoln visited Fort Monroe (in Hampton, Virginia) across Hampton Roads. Recognizing the value of Norfolk, Abraham Lincoln decided to create a plan to capture the city and thus eliminate the base of the CSS Virginia. On May 8, Union ships including the USS Monitor and batteries on Fort Wool opened fire on the Confederate batteries on Sewell’s Point. Only the approach of the CSS Virginia drove the Union ships back to the protection of Fort Monroe. At this point, Lincoln directed the invasion to be on Willoughby Spit (or on Ocean View), away from the Confederate batteries, the next day. On the morning of May 10, 1862, General John Wool landed 6,000 Union soldiers on Willoughby Spit. Within hours, the Union troops arrived at Norfolk. Mayor William Lamb surrendered the city without firing a shot. For the duration of the Civil War, the city was held under Martial law. The Union (under the command of General Benjamin Butler) occupied Norfolk, Virginia from 1862 to 1865. African Americans made up 16 percent of the Union’s North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Many private and public buildings were confiscated for federal use, including nearby plantations. Mayor Lamb did manage to successfully hide the city's colonial era silver mace underneath a fireplace hearth to avoid having it confiscated or melted down by union troops. Enslaved African American in Norfolk didn’t wait until the end of the war to be emancipated. With the arrival of Union troops, thousands of slaves escaped to Norfolk and Fort Monroe to claim their freedom. Even before the arrival of northern missionaries, African American began to set up schools for children and adults both.
Reconstruction and the Early 20th Century
Reconstruction in Norfolk, Virginia saw the construction of African Americans schools and other forms of black infrastructure. The end of Reconstruction in Norfolk came in 1870. Union troops withdrew from Norfolk and Virginia was readmitted to the Union. During this time, African Americans throughout Hampton Roads were elected to state and local offices. Gradually, they were restricted from office and voting by the whites' paramilitary violence and intimidation, and increasingly discriminatory legislation, including Jim Crow Laws to control work, segregated public facilities and transportation, and other aspects of life. In 1902, Virginia joined other Southern states in creating a new constitution. This new constitution disfranchised all African Americans via creating new blocks to voter registered that were selectively and subjectively applied against black people in Virginia. White supremacists wanted evil oppression against black people. From 1900 to 1904, estimated black voter turnout in the Presidential elections in Virginia dropped to zero. African Americans would not regain the ability to exercise suffrage and full civil rights until their activism in the Civil Rights Movement secured passage of federal legislation in the mid-1960s. Despite this severe restriction, many African Americans created families, churches, schools, community organizations and stable lives for themselves. Many became landowners and farmed small plots in the Norfolk area. The area's turn to mixed agriculture before the Civil War created a more favorable environment for small plots and mixed produce. In 1883, the first car of bituminous coal arrived form the Pocahontas fields over the Norfolk & Western Railway and by 1886, the tracks were extended right up to the coal piers at Lambert’s Point to handle the increasing volume, creating one of the largest coal transshipment ports in the world. In 1894, classes began in the city's first public high school. That same year the new technology of the electric street railway was introduced to Norfolk and would, within ten years, link Norfolk with Sewell's Point, Ocean View, South Norfolk, Berkeley, Pinner's Point (all of which were independent communities within Norfolk County at that time), and the neighboring City of Portsmouth.
In 1907, the Abraham Doumar family moves to Norfolk and sets up an ice cream concession at Ocean View Park. In 1904, at the St. Louis Exposition, the Doumars were credited with inventing the ice cream cone. In 1905 they made the first ice cream cone machine, which is still in use at Doumar's Restaurant today. 1907 brought both the Virginian Railway and the Jamestown Exposition to Sewell's Point. The large Naval Review at the Exposition demonstrated the peninsula's favorable location, laying the groundwork for the world's largest naval base. 1907 was the 300th year anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. That exposition brought many people to Hampton Roads like President Theodore Roosevelt, congressmen, Senators, and diplomas from 21 countries. Henry Huttleston Rogers and Mark Twain also attended the expo. Many naval ships from different countries were present for the celebration. The area where the exposition took would become Naval Air Station Hampton Roads, later Naval Station Norfolk, ten years later in 1917, during the height of World War I. During the early 20th century, many changes came into Hampton Roads.
There were resort areas growing in the remote areas along the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Norfolk residents embraced the concept of the day trips to the beaches. Ocean View on the bay in Norfolk County was originally surveyed for lots before the war. Yet, there was an establishment of a 9 mile (14 km) long narrow gauge steam passenger railroad service between downtown Norfolk and Ocean View. It crossed of what was then known as Tanner’s Creek (later renamed Lafayette River) brought the masses. The railroad was at first called Ocean View Railroad. It was later called the Norfolk and Ocean View Railroad. A small steam locomotive named the General William B. Mahone hauled ever increasing volumes of passengers, primarily on the weekends. Similarly, the Norfolk & Virginia Beach Railway inaugurated rail service in 1883 to the rural community of Seatack located on the Atlantic Ocean in the Princess Anne County. The oceanfront area at Seatack was the area’s first resort hotel. Attendance in the hotel improved. The steam powered services between downtown Norfolk and the beaches at Ocean View and Seatack were later replaced by electric powered trolley cars. These in turn, were later replaced by highways and the automobile. Cottage Toll Road, later largely superseded by Tidewater Drive led to Ocean View. Leading from Norfolk to Seatack, where the resort strip became known as Virginia Beach, in 1922, the new hard-surfaced Virginia Beach Boulevard was a major factor in the growth of the Oceanfront town and adjacent portions of Princess Anne County.
Ocean View gradually evolved into a streetcar suburb, and was annexed by Norfolk in 1923. Virginia Beach became an incorporated town in 1906, and an independent city of the second class in 1952, sharing courts and some constitutional officers with Princess Anne County. 11 years later, the 2-square-mile (5.2 km2) city was politically consolidated with county (which was 100 times larger in land area)to form the modern City of Virginia Beach, now the City of Norfolk's neighbor to the east, part of a wave of political consolidations in the Hampton Roads region which took place between 1952 and 1976.
Decades ago, Norfolk, Virginia’s Church Street was home to a wide diverse array of culture, businesses, restaurants, and other strong institutions. Church Street was once called “the Harlem of the South.” Church Street had a community hat produced its own culture and has a great history. He Church Street Five back then was a band that backed some he legendary vocalists and artists like Gary US Bond and Jimmy Soul. The Church Street Five were the house band for Legrand Records, and various other labels owned by Frankie Guida. Members of the Church Street Five were Gene Barge on sax, Leonard Barks on trombone, and Emmet Shields on drums. The band got its name from the church where Shields played in a band, Bishop Grace House of Prayer, a church at the intersection of Church Street and Princess Anne Road in Norfolk, VA.
The Civil Rights Movement in Norfolk, Virginia
The Civil Rights Movement in Hampton Roads, Virginia has been going on for decades and centuries. By 1954, the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision determined that racial segregation in public schools (and public accommodations) was unconstitutional. Yet, Virginia pursued a policy to avoid desegregation that would be the racist Massive Resistance policies. This policy involved the creation of new state laws called the Stanley Plan (that prohibited state funding for integrated public schools, even as some school districts began to contemplate them). It was a few years after Brown until the policy was tested. Norfolk's private schools had been integrated four years before as the city chose to voluntarily comply with the Brown decision. However, a number of public school divisions (school districts) around the state had been reluctant to do so for fear of losing state funds. In 1958, Federal District Courts in Virginia ordered schools in Arlington, Charlottesville, Norfolk, and Warren County, to desegregate. In the fall of 1958, a handful of public schools in three of these widespread areas opened for the first time on a racially integrated basis. In response, Virginia Governor J. Lindsay Almond Jr. ordered the schools to be closed, including six of the Norfolk Public Schools: Granby High School, Maury High School, Norview High School, Blair Junior High School, Northside Junior High School, and Norview Junior High School. During the 1950’s, the SCLC (or the Southern Christian Leadership Council) had meetings in Norfolk, Virginia. In Norfolk, the state action had the impact of locking ten thousand children out of school, which raised outcry by the public to a high level. As some children attended makeshift schools in churches, etc., the citizens voted whether to reopen the public schools. The ballot made clear that the Commonwealth of Virginia would stop funding integrated schools.
On January 19, 1959, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals declared the state law to be in conflict with Virginia's state constitution. The Court of Appeals ordered all public schools to be funded, whether integrated or not. Governor Almond capitulated about ten days later and asked the sitting General Assembly to rescind several "Massive Resistance" laws. On February 2, 1959, Norfolk's public schools were desegregated when 17 black children entered six previously all-white schools in Norfolk, Virginia. The Norfolk 17 is the name of the 17 black heroes of the school desegregation struggle in Norfolk, Virginia. They were young males and young females. There was a lot of racism back then (and today). They worked with the NAACP to fight for social change. They or the young students tried to gain entrance into the mostly white schools of the city. They attended school at Bute Street Baptist Church during the winter of 1958. On February 2, 1959, the Norfolk 17 became the first African American students to attend the previously all-white schools in the largest school district in the state of Virginia. They were cursed at, spit at, and ostracized. Yet, they had a strong religious faith in God. They graduated and moved forward with their lives. Their names are Andrew Heidelberg, Louis Cousins, Betty Jean Reed, Patricia Godbolt, Johnnie Rouse, Carol Wellington, Reginald Young, Delores Johnson, Alveraze Frederick Gonsoul, Edward Jordan, LaVera Forbes, James Turner Jr., Olivia Driver, Lolita Portis-Jones, Patricia Turner, Claudia Wellington, and Geraldine Talley. Virginian-Pilot editor Lenoir Chambers editorialized against massive resistance, and he earned the Pulitzer Prize. The fight for civil rights continued. By 1965, only 5 percent of black students in Virginia were attending integrated schools. The Pupil Placement Board refused to create real desegregation in the 1960’s. "In actuality," writes historian Robert A. Pratt, "race was the only criterion considered; the Pupil Placement Board assigned very few black students to white schools in Virginia while it remained in operation." Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the national NAACP said, "Virginia has the largest and most successful token integration program in the country."
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 denied federal funds to schools determined to be resisting integration. This resulted in a bit more compliance by Virginia schools. White flight existed when white people moved into mostly white suburbs in the 1960’s and more white students went into private schools. Black people disagreed with oppressive discrimination. CORE was active in Norfolk, VA. By 1960 only 23% of the eligible black voters were registered. This was primarily because of discrimination in voter registration, initiated since the 1902 Virginia Constitution. The 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964, abolished the poll tax, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act expanded that number, but the lingering effects of voting restrictions resulted in widespread inequities. SNCC and other groups organized sit-ins in Norfolk and in Hampton Roads in general. They did this in 1961. African Americans arranged sit ins at Norfolk’s Woolworth’s, Portsmouth’s Mid-City Roses, and in other stores. Some protests were peaceful marches. There was violence between racists and the black social activists who wanted real change. Civil rights didn’t just deal with equality involving education and public accommodations. We want equality involving jobs, politics, and housing.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Norfolk, Virginia many times. He visited Norfolk for the first time in the summer of 1961. He went to the City Arena (or the Harrison Opera House today) where he led a rally with 2,500 people (which was sponsored by the SCLC). The programs included local clergy and Dr. Milton A. Reid of Petersburg or the President of the Virginia Christian Leadership Conference. His last time he went into Norfolk was in October 1966. He spoke at the New Calvary Baptist Church at the installation ceremonies for Dr. Milton Reid as pastor. He answered questions from reporters and Norfolk State College students at a press conference. Hundreds of people crowded the church and lined Virginia Beach Boulevard, hoping for a glimpse of the civil rights leader. He wanted to go into Norfolk, Suffolk, and other Virginia cities on March 30, 1968 in order for him to promote the Poor People's Campaign. Yet, he went into Memphis during that time to fight for the economic rights of the Memphis sanitation workers. There was the election of Attorney Joseph A. Jordan, Jr. to Norfolk's City Council. His election made Jordan the first African American in the 20th century to win a seat on the council. He eventually became vice mayor and was, by 1977, appointed as judge on Norfolk's General District Court. Dr. William P. Robinson, a Norfolk State professor, was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1969 also becoming the first African American to win that seat in the 20th century. The first African American to achieve the distinction of being the first in Portsmouth was Dr. James E. Holley, III in 1968. Holley would go on to become Portsmouth's first African American mayor. These elections, as well as the appointments of prominent African Americans to the school board, the city planning commission, heralded the beginnings of changes for African Americans in Norfolk. These historic developments are great. Yet, the struggle continues. One great civil rights pioneer who recently passed away in 2014 was Andrew Heidelberg. He was one of the Norfolk 17. He was part of Norview High School.
The Later 20th Century
From 1960 to the present, Norfolk, Virginia has gone through many changes. Midtown Tunnel began operations in 1962. Norfolk’s downtown waterfront (which is the traditional center of shipping and port activities in the Hampton Roads region) played host to numerous port and shipping related users. There was the growth of containerized shipping in the mid-20th century. Then, the shipping uses located on Norfolk’s downtown waterfront became obsolete as larger and more modern port facilities opened elsewhere in the region. In the second half of the century, Norfolk had a vibrant retail community in its suburbs. Norfolk was also the birthplace of Econo-Travel, now Econo Lodge, one of the nation’s first discount motel chains. During this time, there was the growth of suburban shopping destinations. So, during the late 20th century, downtown’s Granby Street commercial corridor suffered economically, which is located just a few blocks inland from the waterfront. Granby Street traditionally played the role as the premiere shopping and gathering spot in the Hampton Roads region and numerous department stores such as Smith & Welton (1898–1988), Rice's (1918–1985) and Ames and Brownley (1898–1973), hotels and theaters once lined its sidewalks. However, new suburban shopping developments promised more convenience and comfort to the population that had moved to the suburbs. Pembroke Mall in Virginia Beach, the region's first climate-controlled shopping mall, and JANAF Shopping Center in Norfolk's Military Circle area, were built in this era. Starting in the 1970’s, Norfolk worked to revive its urban core. To compete with suburban shopping destinations, Norfolk city leaders tried to create a similar mall experience on Granby Street. The city rebranded its commercial core the "Granby Street Mall", closed Granby Street to through-traffic and created a pedestrian mall. The Granby Street Mall did not succeed and the mall endured hardship through the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then, the city focused on the waterfront and its piers and warehouses. Norfolk, using federal urban renewal funds, began large scale demolitions downtown. This included many housing that, in the mid-20th century, did not have indoor plumbing or access to running water. The former City Market, Norfolk Terminal Station (the Union railroad station) and The Monticello Hotel were also demolished. At the water's edge, nearly all of the obsolete shipping and warehousing facilities were demolished and replaced with a new boulevard, Waterside Drive. Among the buildings erected were the Waterside Festival Marketplace (an indoor mall similar to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Pavilions), Waterfront Town Point Park (an esplanade park with wide open riverfront views), and Norfolk Omni Hotel. On the inland side of Waterside Drive, the demolition of the warehouses and wharves made way for many buildings.
There are many changes in Norfolk, Virginia in the 21st century too. Cinemark 18 (cinema) is in business in Norfolk by the year 2000. 150 West Main Street was built in the year of 2002. It is a 20 story building. There are many businesses in the location. A branch of SunTrust occupies part of the ground floor and their name is one th banner sign at the top of the building. Todd Jericho’s Bistro (or a full service restaurant) is found in the building too. The building has 24/7 security and a backup generator provides electricity during power outages. The number of cruise ship passengers who visited Norfolk increased from 50,000 in 2003, to 107,000 in 2004 and 2005. Also in April 2007, the city completed construction on a $36 million state-of-the-art cruise ship terminal alongside the pier. Partly due to this construction, passenger counts dropped to 70,000 in 2006, but is expected to rebound to 90,000 in 2007, and higher in later years. In April 2007, construction of the new $36 million Half Moone Cruise Terminal was completed downtown adjacent to the Nauticus Museum, providing a state-of-the-art permanent structure for various cruise lines and passengers wishing to embark from Norfolk. In 2016, people are still courageously fighting for better education, for better health care, and for an end to gun violence in Norfolk, Virginia. Recently, people have marched against gun violence in the Church Street area (near Downtown). The Tide light rail service began operations in August 2011. The light rail is a starter route running along the southern portion of Norfolk, commencing at Newtown Road and passing through stations serving areas such as Norfolk State University and Harbor Park before going through the heart of downtown Norfolk and terminating at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. The HRT Light Rail is the first light rail in a city of Virginia in history.
The Culture of Norfolk
The culture of Norfolk, Virginia has a long history. African Americans make up over 100,000 people in Norfolk. Norfolk’s total population is about 246,000 people. For black culture, there is obviously the Attucks Theater which was built in 1919. It is the oldest theater in Norfolk that was designed, developed, financed, and operated entirely by black people. Norfolk State University makes up a large part of black culture in Norfolk, Virginia as well. Norfolk State University is the 10th largest historically black university in the nation. It is a university that my relatives attended and graduated from. It is a university with a lot of great history and culture. I have been to Norfolk State University plenty of times. It was founded in 1935 and they are also known as the Spartans. NSU is a member school of Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Virginia High-Tech Partnership. Norfolk State's undergraduate and graduate programs are divided into eight schools/colleges like School of business, School of Education, etc. The school also offers 36 undergraduate degrees, with a new degree being offered in Optical Engineering. Many well-known alumni from Norfolk State University include Alex Moore, Yvonne B. Miller, Tim Reid, Randall Robinson, Chandra Sturrup, Na’im Akbar, Anthony Evans, and so many other human beings. Also, Norfolk State University is home to the Harrison B. Wilson Archives and African Art Gallery and a display of African-American history, folklore, and culture can be found at the Lyman Beecher Brooks Library. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is found on the corner of Brambleton Avenue and Church Street. It is 83 feet high and it is a granite monument. It gives tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders who fought for freedom and justice. The memorial conceived by Joseph A. Jordan, Jr., former Norfolk Councilman and General District Court Judge, is inscribed with quotations of Dr. King and contains a fountain at its base.
The Cannonball Tail on 401 East Freemason Street has a tour of the historic sites in Downtown Norfolk that relates to Norfolk’s rich and multifaceted history. There is the West Point Monument at Elmwood Cemetery. It is recognized as one of the South’s only known tribute to African-American veterans of the Civil and Spanish American Wars. This is part of a Virginia Civil War Trail site, which is marked by a statue of Norfolk native and first African America Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant William Carney of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The cornerstone of the monument of Sgt. William Carney was set on Decoration Day, May 30, 1909, and was completed in 1920. The St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church is found on E. Bute Street. It was created during the 19th century. St. John back in the 19th century was known was the Mother Church for African Methodism in Virginia. Also, the First Baptist Church of Norfolk is the historic church. It was formed in 1800. It included free black people, slaves, and some whites. It is a resisted national landmark which includes a small museum of artifacts.