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GERRYMANDERS

Lecture by Brent Tarter


Brent Tarter photographMany are aware that gerrymandering exists and suspect it plays a role in our elections, but its history goes far deeper, and its impacts are far greater, than most realize. In his latest book, Brent Tarter focuses on Virginia’s long history of gerrymandering to uncover its immense influence on the state’s politics and to provide perspective on how the practice impacts politics nationally. Offering the first in-depth historical study of gerrymanders in Virginia, Tarter exposes practices going back to nineteenth century and colonial times and explains how they protected land and slave owners’ interests. The consequences of redistricting and reapportionment in modern Virginia become much clearer in light of this history. On the eve of the 2021 session of the General Assembly, which will redraw district lines for Virginia’s state Senate and House of Delegates, as well as for the US House of Representatives, Tarter’s book provides an eye-opening investigation of gerrymandering and its pervasive effect on our local, state, and national politics and government.

Brent Tarter did his graduate work in American history at the University of Virginia and for many years served as senior editor at the Library of Virginia. During his career he edited numerous publications; served as an editor of the Virginia Independence Bicentennial Commission's seven-volume Revolutionary Virginia, the Road to Independence, published articles on Virginia history in a variety of academic and historical journals, and authored numerous books including The Grandees of Government and Gerrymanders: How Redistricting has Protected Slavery, White Supremacy, and Political Minorities in Virginia, and a forthcoming book Virginians and Their Histories, a new history of Virginia, to be published in 2020.  He is a founding editor of the Library of Virginia's Dictionary of Virginia Biography project and a co-founder of the annual Virginia Forum of which he is currently President.