What do George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler and Zachary Taylor have in common? They were all born in Virginia–-making the Old Dominion the birthplace of more United States Presidents than any other state in the Union. Among these eight Virginians were those who established a new nation, drafted our founding documents, fought in numerous battles, led the country through wars and created an international peacekeeping organization. But these men also used their power to force Native Americans off their land, perpetuate the institution of slavery in new states and territories, and prevent women from obtaining the right to vote.
Across the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond are more than two dozen presidential homes, museums and historic sites that tell the stories of the eight Virginia-born Presidents. While some were originally founded to enshrine the memory of our Founding Fathers, most presidential homes and museums no longer uncritically celebrate their lives. Instead, many of these sites have expanded their interpretation to include a more complicated and nuanced story about our Presidents and include the stories of the other men, women and children–-enslaved and free–-who supported them in their political, military and civilian careers.
My newest book tells the stories of the Virginia Presidents and the historic sites that interpret their lives. It includes profiles of each of the eight Presidents and descriptions of the museums, historic sites and presidential homes in Virginia and surrounding states that tell their stories and, by extension, the story of our nation.
Virginia’s Presidents: A History and Guide will be published by The History Press in 2023.