• The First VoteOn October 22, 1867, Black men in Virginia voted for the first time in an election to choose delegates to the state constitutional convention. The federal Reconstruction Act of 1867 required former Confederate states to create new constitutions, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted citizenship to formerly enslaved individuals and guaranteed equal protection under the law, had been ratified the previous July. (Image courtesy of Library of Virginia)
  • The Fifteenth Amendment

    This 1870 lithograph celebrates the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted the vote to all male citizens regardless of race or color. The vignette of noted abolitionists at the top includes Martin R. Delany, a Charles Town, Virginia-born abolitionist, writer, politician, and doctor. (Image courtesy of Library of Virginia)

  • The Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901–1902

    Portraits of some of the 100 white male delegates to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901–1902, which disenfranchised the majority of African Americans and a significant portion of working-class whites through measures such as the poll tax designed to circumvent the Fifteenth Amendment. (Courtesy of Library of Virginia)

  • Poll Tax List

    A pamphlet issued by Essex County officials lists citizens who paid their state poll tax for 1934, 1935, 1936, and through May 2, 1937. Under the Virginia Constitution of 1902, voters were required to prove they had paid the tax for each of the three years prior to an election or face disenfranchisement. (Courtesy of Virginia Museum of History and Culture)

  • Evelyn Thomas Butts

    Evelyn Thomas Butts was a civil rights leader from Norfolk who helped overturn Virginia’s poll tax. Her lawsuit challenging the Jim Crow-era tax was combined with a similar suit brought by four Black Fairfax County residents and argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections. In 1966, the Supreme Court found the poll tax unconstitutional.

  • L. Douglas Wilder

    L. Douglas Wilder at his inauguration as governor of Virginia in 1990. Wilder, the grandson of enslaved individuals, was the first African American to win a statewide election when he was elected lieutenant governor in 1985 and the first elected Black governor in the United States. (Courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch)