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Southern Sketches from Virginia: 1881-1901

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by Orra Langhorne. Edited by Charles E. Wynes, 1964. A selection of Langhorne’s writings for newspapers which appeared in Southern Workman, published by Hampton Institute of Hampton, Virginia. An excellent companion book to Lucy Frances Simms: From Slavery to Revered Public Service.

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by Orra Langhorne. Edited by Charles E. Wynes.

Orra Henderson Moore Gray Langhorne (1841-1904) was born in Rockingham County, Virginia, on property that is now part of Harrisonburg’s Northeast Neighborhood. Her family was educated and affluent, slave holding, and progressive. She graduated from Hollins Institute in Roanoke, now known as Hollins University, in 1859. The legacy of her progressive advocacy is recognized by the inclusion of her name on the Wall of Honor on the Virginia Women’s Monument, located in Capitol Square in Richmond.

This volume contains a selection of Langhorne’s writings for newspapers which appeared in Southern Workman, published by Hampton Institute of Hampton, Virginia. The articles provide insight into Virginia life and labor, as well as the author’s personality and character. Topics that captured Langhorne’s mind and pen include politics, travel, African-American migration and domestic help, and education.

Langhorne’s views on racial reconciliation and educational opportunities for African Americans were unsettling to other Virginians at the time. She remained persistent, writing to the principal of the Hampton Institute to request admission for her former slaves. In Southern Sketches, there are a number of stories which reveal the continuing relationship between Orra and the blacks once owned by her family. Harrisonburg’s most revered educator, Lucy F. Simms, was born into slavery as a member of the Gray family’s enslaved.

The Southern Workman periodical published an obituary for Langhorne, stating “[She] had the rare courage of her convictions. Her gentle voice and vigorous pen were at the service of the causes she believed in, whether school improvement, industrial training, temperance, prison reform, women’s advancement, civil service reform, or universal education.”

For more information on the life of Orra Gray Langhorne, visit The Library of Virginia’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography.

Beautifully bound small format hardback, 1964. 145 pages, with photographs and index.

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