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Tag Archives: virginia constitution

- “Irrespective of race or color:” African Americans and the Making of a New Virginia Constitution


The State Convention at Richmond, Va., in Session, with Willis A. Hodges in the center front, published in Leslie's Illustrated Weekly, February 15, 1868.

On 17 April 1868, exactly seven years after a Virginia convention had voted to secede from the United States, another Virginia convention voted to approve a new constitution. For the first time in Virginia’s history, African American men participated in framing the state’s governing principles and laws.

The Library of Virginia’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography has recently completed a project to document the lives of these African American members of the convention, and their biographies are published online with our digital partner, Encyclopedia Virginia. These biographies (and many others) can be accessed through the Dictionary of Virginia Biography Search page or through Encyclopedia Virginia.

In 1867 Congress had required states of the former Confederacy (except Tennessee) to write

First Vote, from the cover of Harper's Weekly, November 16, 1867.

new constitutions before their senators and representatives could take their seats in Congress. On 22 October 1867, African American men voted for the first time in Virginia. In the election conducted by U.S. Army officers, voters answered two questions: whether to hold a convention to write a new constitution, and, if the convention referendum passed, who would represent them. Army officers recorded votes of white and black men separately, and some or all localities required voters to place their ballots in separate ballot boxes. Many white Virginians refused to participate in the election or were ineligible because they were former Confederates who had not taken an … read more »

Posted in Other Departments, Virginia Humanities
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- More Than an Entry in a Register: Local Government Convict Registers


Virginia Penitentiary, ca. 1865. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

For access purposes, archivists sort local government records held by the Library of Virginia into twenty-three categories, as well as numerous sub-categories encompassing the alphabet from A to W. Due to its size and scope, the court records category is further divided into seven series—chancery, clerk’s records, court finance, criminal, judgments, jury records, and personal documentation. There are also various court-related dockets, memoranda, and petitions, which do not fit into any particular series. The criminal records series contains a wealth of information for both the historian and the genealogist.

The convict registers found in local government records at the Library shed light on a once taboo avenue of research, factoring into the recent debate over felon disenfranchisement and the restoration of voting rights. The Library houses seventeen local government criminal registers—either in their original form at the main building or State Records Center (sample finding aid) or on microfilm in the reading room and via inter library loan. An additional ten registers are preserved only on security microfilm at the State Records Center and presently are not available to the public.

The title of one such register from the City of Alexandria clearly spells out their purpose as “a descriptive list of persons convicted of felony, or other infamous offences in the Corporation Court of Alexandria, Virginia since November 2nd, 1870.” … read more »

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