Virginia Reenters the Union in 1871

In early 1871, as part of changes brought about by the Reconstruction Acts, Virginia reentered back into the Union. These Acts, a series of legislation aimed at restructuring the Southern states after the Civil War, required states to meet certain conditions before they could be readmitted. Central to these conditions was the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, which promised equal protection under the law to all citizens, regardless of race.

The requirement to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment signaled a clear intention by the federal government to reconstruct the Southern states not just in political terms, but also in the moral and ethical fabric of their societies. It was a directive that sought to embed the principles of equality and justice into the very constitution of these states, ensuring that the rights of newly freed African Americans were protected by law.

In 1870, the first Reconstruction Legislature, made up of 27 Black lawmakers and 150 white lawmakers, met in Richmond, Virginia — a state that had been devastated more by the Civil War than any other state. With many white Virginians refusing to take a loyalty oath to the Union, a “Committee of Nine” created a compromise that traded Black support for former Confederates for office if they would support the state’s Reconstruction constitution.

Voters backed the constitution, which embraced the 14th Amendment and Black voting.

The readmission of Virginia into the Union under these terms marked a significant milestone in American history. It reflected the nation’s commitment to rebuilding itself on the principles of liberty and equality, laying down a legal foundation that would support the long and ongoing struggle for civil rights in the United States.

This period of Reconstruction in Virginia was a crucial step in the journey towards realizing the ideals of democracy and justice for all its citizens.