Race and Virginia

in 2014, most jurisdictions west of the Blue Ridge were at least 90% white, in contrast to communities east of the mountains
in 2014, most jurisdictions west of the Blue Ridge were at least 90% white, in contrast to communities east of the mountains
Source: Social Explorer, US Demography: 1790 to Present

in 2014, the jurisdictions that were at least 30% black were concentrated in Southside Virginia
in 2014, the jurisdictions that were at least 30% black were concentrated in Southside Virginia
Source: Social Explorer, US Demography: 1790 to Present

in 2014, four Virginia counties had more than 1% Native American population
in 2014, four Virginia counties had more than 1% Native American population
Source: Social Explorer, US Demography: 1790 to Present

Virginia's current population mix is dramatically different from that in 1500, when 100% of residents were Native American. Voluntary immigration by Europeans and forced transport of slaves from Africa are the primary reasons why Virginia now has a diverse population. Since the 1960's, minority populations in Virginia have gained more political power - but a century earlier, the black minority held the balance of power in Virginia elections after the Civil War.

the plaque on the Augusta County courthouse wall honoring local soldiers who died in World War I lists the Colored separately
the plaque on the Augusta County courthouse wall honoring local soldiers who died in World War I lists the "Colored" separately, while the plaque for World War II makes no such distinction

Initially, the newly-emancipated blacks voted as a solid bloc for the Republican party candidates. When Reconstruction ended in 1870 after adoption of the Underwood Constitution in 1869, the voting power of the black population remained important. Blacks were key allies of the Readjusters, initially.

The last elected black official of the post Civil War era was John Mercer Langston. He served only the last 161 days of his 1888-90 term, after finally overcoming objections and being seated officially.

Dumfries elected the first black municipal official of the modern era in 1961. John Wilmer Porter was elected to the town Council in 1961. He was well-known in the local community; Porter Brothers Garage was a key business in the small town, and it served both blacks and whites despite the segregation pattern of the times.

Lawrence Davies was elected to the City Council of Fredericksburg in 1966, and then became mayor. In 1970, Rev. Noel C. Taylor (minister of High Street Baptist Church) was elected to the Roanoke City Council. He became the Vice-Mayor in 1974, and then became the first black mayor in western Virginia when the incumbent died in 1975.

Virginia elected Douglas Wilder as lieutenant governor in 1985 and as governor in 1989. In 1994, Virginia elected its second black man to Congress, Representative Bobby Scott from Newport News. Virginia has never elected a black senator to the United States Congress.

The First Black Students at Virginia Tech

In 2002, Virginia Tech decided to name the first building on campus to honor a black person, honoring two students by renaming the New Residence Hall - West as the Peddrew-Yates Building.1

When Irving L. Peddrew III arrived on the Virginia Tech campus in 1953, VPI "became the first historically-white, four-year, public institution in any of the eleven states of the former Confederacy to admit a black undergraduate." Tech desegregated before any court required it.

Peddrew did not remain at Tech for 4 years. Charlie Yates was, as the headline described it in 1958, "VPI's First Negro Graduate." He never was able to sleep in a campus dorm himself - and was able to eat only one meal on campus while an undergraduate. He served in the corps of cadets and once served on guard duty in the mealroom, where he ate by himself.2

Virginia population by race in 2010
Virginia population by race in 2010
Source: Bureau of Census, 2010 Census: Virginia Profile

Slavery in Virginia

The "One-Drop" Rule and Racial Identification By Whites, Blacks, and Native Americans

Massive Resistance

Melungeons in Virginia

Links

The First Vote - black Virginians could vote on October 22, 1867 for representatives to the convention that produced the 1869 Underwood Constitution
"The First Vote" - black Virginians could vote on October 22, 1867 for representatives to the convention that produced the 1869 Underwood Constitution
Source: Harper's Weekly (November 16, 1867, p.721)

References

1. Miller, Kevin, "Peddrew-Yates building to be first on campus whose name honors black people," Roanoke Times, July 7, 2002 (no longer online)
2. Wallenstein, Peter, "The First Black Students At Virginia Tech, 1953-1963" in Timeline of Black History at Virginia Tech, spec.lib.vt.edu/archives/blackhistory/timeline/blackstu.htm (last checked September 15, 2002)

in 1950, almost everyone living west of the Blue Ridge was white; only Tazewell, Roanoke, Allegheny, and Augusta had more than 2,500 African-American residents
in 1950, almost everyone living west of the Blue Ridge was white; only Tazewell, Roanoke, Allegheny, and Augusta had more than 2,500 African-American residents
Source: Library of Congress, Distribution of Negro population by county 1950: showing each county with 500 or more Negro population


Population of Virginia
Virginia Places