The Use & Abuse of Black Enfranchisement

Local & National Voting Since the Civil War
March 2, 2020 to October 3, 2022

Exhibit title graphic with outline images of protesters with signs and flagsAlthough African Americans legally gained the right to vote in Virginia in 1867, they still faced many barriers that prohibited their active participation in elections. Newspapers erupted with militant cries against allowing blacks the right to vote. Both de jure and de facto practices have restricted the complete enfranchisement of the black population since the Civil War. Particularly in Virginia, these barriers existed because whites feared that black voters could shape the results of elections and remove existing political elites from power. This exhibit seeks to demonstrate the many ways in which black votes in Virginia were used and suppressed to maintain the status quo.

Today, although some institutional barriers for African American voters are being torn down, political campaigns still actively target minority voters. Even if politics have become more inclusive, has this been motivated by sincere efforts to increase representation or strategic decisions to see voters as blocks which ought to be targeted?

Curation: Jenna Hershberger, M.A. Student in History and Special Collections Graduate Apprentice; Tyler Goldberger, Ph.D. Student in History and Special Collections Graduate Apprentice

Design: Abram Clear '21, SCRC Graphics Student Assistant

Fabrication and Installation: KateKarl Nash '21, Special Collections Student Assistant; Jennie Davy, Exhibits Manager; Jenna Hershberger; and Tyler Goldberger