The Library of Virginia

Colonial Virginia | American Revolution | Democratizing the Old Dominion  
 Twentieth Century |
Virginia Political Leaders

Civil War and Reconstruction

Frederick County ballot. 1861. The Civil War brought about radical change. The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution enfranchised African American men for the first time, and following the election of African Americans to the state Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, Virginians adopted a new constitution that once again changed political practices in the state. 
On 4 February 1861 Virginians voted for members of the convention that in April adopted the Ordinance of Secession. 
Frederick County ballot. 1861. Library of Virginia
Among the most important changes were the creation of a new public school system and a reorganization of the local government structure to enable a larger number of elected citizens to participate in governing the counties, towns, and cities of Virginia. Many of these changes were unpopular with Virginia's traditional political leaders, and during the closing years of the nineteenth century they attempted to turn back the clock and to drive African Americans and the Republican Party out of politics. They succeeded with the constitution of 1902, which imposed strict and complicated voter registration procedures designed to reduce or eliminate African American men from political life and also to limit the number of poor and uneducated white men who could take part.

The First Vote. Alfred R. Waud. Harper's Weekly

The First Vote. Alfred R. Waud. Harper's Weekly, 
16 November 1867. The man on the left conducting the election may be Lipscomb. Woodcut engraving. The Library of Virginia.
1869 Republican Party election ticket. During the early years of the twentieth century, the black voting rolls fell from about 147,000 to fewer than 10,000, and both African Americans and Republicans had few opportunities to have a direct impact on Virginia politics.

1869 Republican Party election ticket. 
Library of Virginia 
Broadside 1869 793.

Civil War and Reconstruction Political Leaders