Gov. Northam commemorates 50th anniversary of Virginia's Constitution

Posted at 7:24 AM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 07:24:56-04

RICHMOND, Va. - July 1 marks 50 years since Virginia's current constitution took effect in 1971.

On Tuesday, Governor Northam celebrated Constitution Day by visiting the Library of Virginia to view original copies of four of Virginia’s Constitutions.

Before the current constitution took effect in 1971, the Virginia Constitution included detailed provisions that were intended to disenfranchise Black voters and prohibit integration at schools.

The Constitution of 1902 instituted poll taxes, literacy tests, and other barriers to voting. Despite most of the constitution's discriminatory provisions being reversed by federal law or court decisions, it remained in effect in Virginia for most of the 20th century, until voters approved a new constitution in 1971.

“The 50th anniversary of Virginia’s 1971 Constitution is an important opportunity to acknowledge how our Commonwealth has evolved,” said Governor Northam. “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.”

After the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's, which brought laws that overpowered discriminatory practices in state constitutions, work on Virginia's current constitution began. A commission was created by Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr. to revise to document.

Virginians can view original copies of Virginia’s Constitutions of 1776, 1869, 1902, and 1971 until July 1 at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.

For a list of events celebrating the 50th anniversary, click here.