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1) On May 17, 1775, the Virginia colony officially declared independence from Great Britain, becoming the first colony to do so. This act set the stage for the other colonies to follow suit and paved the way for the eventual formation of the United States.

2) Two years later on May 17, 1777, the Virginia House of Delegates passed the first act of religious freedom in America. This groundbreaking legislation was authored by Thomas Jefferson and ensured that Virginians could worship as they pleased without interference from the government.

3) May 17, 1861 marks the day that Virginia seceded from the Union, joining the Confederacy during the American Civil War. The decision was not unanimous, with many western counties breaking away to form their own state, West Virginia.

4) On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The case was brought by the parents of African American schoolchildren in Virginia and marked a major victory for the civil rights movement.

5) In 2004, May 17 was designated as "Virginia Arts Day" by Governor Mark Warner. The day celebrates the contributions of artists and arts organizations throughout the state and is marked by special events and performances.

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