You had a one in three shot at surviving Jamestown back in the 1600s. When the original settlers stopped dying and figured there was no gold in them thar hills, they started growing tobacco. One planter, John Rolfe, married a local princess named Pocahantas – who was incidentally 10 when she met 28-year old John Smith. The myth you’ve heard about their relationship is exactly that, an ego-pumping invention of Smith’s.
A feudal aristocracy grew out of tobacco farming, and many gentry scions became Founding Fathers, including native son George Washington. In the 19th century the slave-based plantation system grew in size and incompatibility with the industrializing North; Virginia seceded in 1861, and became the epicenter of the Civil War. Following its defeat the state walked a tense cultural tightrope, accruing a layered identity that included older aristocrats; a rural and urban working class; waves of immigrants; and today, the burgeoning tech-heavy suburbs of DC. The state revels in its history, yet still wants to pioneer the American experiment; thus, while Virginia only reluctantly de-segregated in the 1960s, today it houses one of the most ethnically diverse populations of the New South.