RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam commemorated Constitution Day by visiting the Library of Virginia in Richmond to view the original copies of Virginia’s Constitutions, including the most recent copy.
It’s been 50 years since the current Virginia Constitution took effect on July 1, 1971. Before that day, the Virginia Constitution included detailed provisions intended to disenfranchise Black voters and prohibit racially integrated public schools.
The 1971 document replaced the regressive constitution in place since 1902.
Although some of the most discriminatory provisions of the 1902 Constitution were reversed by federal law, it remained in effect in Virginia for most of the 20th century, until voters approved a new constitution in 1971.
Gov. Northam noted the 50th anniversary of Virginia’s 1971 Constitution as an important opportunity to acknowledge how the Commonwealth has evolved.
“Virginia has 400 years of history—good and bad—and it is important that we tell the accurate, honest story of our past. Understanding our full history means learning about these events and the ways they are connected to the present day, so we can work together to build a better future for all Virginians.”
The 1971 Virginia Constitution took important steps to renounce the constitution in place since 1902 by eliminating the poll tax, enshrining a ban on racially segregated schools, providing free public education for every school-aged child, and prohibiting governmental discrimination based on race, color, national origin or sex.
You can celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Virginia Constitution of 1971 with a list of related events here.