But just what is Vdare anyway? A teen challenge involving vaping? A virtual update of the D.A.R.E. program?
Vdare.com is an anti-immigration website named after Virginia Dare, the first English child born in what is now the United States. Nothing is known about her other than her name and date of her birth, but that hasn’t stopped white nationalists, and others, from speculating.
In July 1587, a group of English explorers arrived on the coast of what is now North Carolina to start a settlement. There had been other, unsuccessful European attempts to settle the land, but Governor John White still brought his pregnant daughter Eleanor Dare, and her husband, Ananias.
Within a month, Eleanor had given birth. White wrote in his journal:
“The 18 [of August] Elenor, daughter to the Governour, and wife to Ananias Dare one of the Assistants, was delivered of a daughter in Roanoak, and the same was christened there the Sonday following, and because this child was the first Christian borne in Virginia, shee was named Virginia.”
He quickly moved on to a description of unpacking their ships and collecting firewood.
Things went badly in the Roanoke Colony almost immediately. They had arrived too late in the year to plant crops, and some neighboring Native American tribes with whom previous English explorers had fought didn’t exactly welcome their arrival. Four days after Virginia was born, White returned to England to get help.
That went badly, too. White arrived in the middle of a war between England and Spain, and every ship was commandeered to fight the Spanish Armada. It took three years for him to return to North America.
He came back on what would have been Virginia’s third birthday to find Roanoke abandoned. There were no skeletal remains, the fort was dismantled, and carved on a fence post was the word “Croatoan.”
Croatoan was the name of both an island and a friendly tribe nearby. The sailors with whom White was traveling refused to continue the search, and White sailed home with them. The “Lost Colony” of Roanoke was never heard from again.
But hundreds of years later, speculation about the fate of little Virginia exploded. As Roanoke historian Andrew Lawler described in a column for The Washington Post, writer Eliza Lanesford Cushing coined the term “Lost Colony” in the 1830s.
And, without evidence, she cast a legend of Virginia Dare as a fair-skinned young woman living among wild Native Americans, denying them her chastity.
At the time, Lawler wrote, many Americans were in a panic about an influx of non-British immigrants.
Virginia Dare became popular again at the height of Jim Crow with Sallie Southall Cotten’s epic 1901 poem “The White Doe.”
In it, Virginia is taken in by the friendly Croatoans, who marvel at her beauty and whiteness:
“While the babe of Ro-a-no-ak
Grew in strength and wondrous beauty;
Like a flower of the wildwood,
Bloomed beside the Indian maidens.
And Wi-no-na Skâ they called her,
She of all the maidens fairest.
In the tangles of her tresses
Sunbeams lingered, pale and yellow;
In her eyes the limpid blueness
Of the noonday sky was mirrored.”
The Croatoans treat her reverently, and though many young men try to woo her, she denies them. In jealousy, one of them curses her and she turns into a white doe, roaming the island of Roanoke.
Southerners and suffragists alike seized on the legend. “At the 1907 exposition celebrating Jamestown’s 300th anniversary, Virginia Dare was hailed in the North Carolina exhibit as that ‘infant child of pure Caucasian blood’ who launched ‘the birth of the white race in the Western Hemisphere,’ ” Lawler writes.
White women pushing for the right to vote would invoke her name. There was Virginia Dare Tobacco, a Virginia Dare postage stamp, and, according to the North Carolina History Project, Virginia Dare Wine was the most popular wine in the United States before Prohibition.
And now, the lionization of Virginia Dare’s whiteness continues with Vdare.com.
“I picked the name because I wanted to focus attention on the very specific cultural origins of America, at a time when mass nontraditional immigration is threatening to swamp it,” Brimelow told Lawler.
Brimelow denies being a white nationalist but admitted to the Harvard Crimson that his website gives a platform to them. An article published on the site Tuesday claims black people genetically have lower IQs than white people.
White nationalists aren’t the only ones who theorize about Virginia Dare. Many in the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina believe Dare and other members of the Roanoke Colony intermarried with their ancestors.
And in 1937, a tourist brought a rock to the Emory University history department, saying he’d found it while traveling through North Carolina. On it, etched words describe the fate of the Roanoke Colony, signed with the initials “EWD” — the same initials of Virginia’s mother, Eleanor Dare.
The rock was later grouped with other carved stones proved to be forgeries, but historians recently have been reconsidering its dismissal. Brenau University, where the rock is kept, plans to assemble a team of experts this fall to analyze it.
If the writing on the stone is found to be authentic, Virginia Dare’s fate may have been sealed long before she’d have been able to roam the forests with her “sunbeam” tresses or intermarry with the Lumbees.
It reads: “Ananias Dare & Virginia Went Hence Unto Heaven 1591.”
She would have been 3 or 4 years old at the time.
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