Race Relations in Virginia, 1870-1902

Race Relations in Virginia, 1870-1902

Race Relations in Virginia, 1870-1902

Race Relations in Virginia, 1870-1902

Excerpt

After nine years of Civil War and Reconstruction, Virginia reentered the Union on January 26, 1870. On that date, President Grant signed into law a bill authorizing Virginia's restoration to the Union. Earlier, the Virginia General Assembly had ratified the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, as required for readmission. These amendments guaranteed to the Negro equal protection under the laws of the nation and provided that his right of suffrage should not be abridged because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Thus thrust into society as a legal equal and onto the center of the political stage, the Virginia Negro was destined for the next thirty- one years to be the single most important factor in a turbulent period of social and political upheaval. His role was a significant one, from ratification of the liberal Underwood Constitution of 1868 down to and including approval of the constitutional convention which disfranchised him in 1902. Between these two events he was a decisive factor in the state debt readjustment controversy and in the development of a peculiar type of Virginia Populist party. His real significance in these events, however, lay more in his potential for action than in his actions themselves. His wishes were rarely consulted or heeded. Still his presence could never be ignored.

The position of the Negro in post-1870 Virginia was unique because Virginia reentered the Union firmly in the hands of native white Conservatives and moderate white Republicans. This conservative political leadership had brought about reentry sooner than might otherwise have been possible primarily through shrewd political bargaining with the federal government. The realistic, white, Virginia Conservatives and moderate, white Republicans together had obtained from the Congress and President Grant a chance for the state to vote separately on the general body of the new constitution and on two provisions contained in it.

One of the provisions of the new constitution would have deprived of the right of suffrage all persons who had ever held any public office in which an oath of allegiance to the United States was re-

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.