The First Vote.
Original Author: Alfred R. Waud
Created: November 16, 1867
Medium: Engraving

“The First Vote.”

An African American workman, with tools in his pocket, casts the first vote on October 22, 1867, in a Virginia election choosing state convention delegates to write a new constitution. An African American businesssman and soldier stand behind the first voter, waiting their turn at the polls. Alfred R. Waud created this image, which served as the cover of the November 16, 1867, edition of Harper's Weekly. The magazine text describing the image praised “the good sense and discretion, and above all modesty, which the freedmen have displayed in the exercise” of their franchise.

In June 1866 the U.S. Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment, which defined citizenship and guaranteed the rights of all citizens, including the newly freed enslaved population. The subsequent Reconstruction Act of 1867 by Congress required former Confederate states to hold conventions to create new state constitutions. In 1867, 105,832 freedmen registered to vote in Virginia, and 93,145 voted in the October election.

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