Alexander Owen represented Halifax County in the House of Delegates. Born into slavery, he worked as a ditcher after the American Civil War (1861–1865). Elected in 1869 to the assembly, Owen voted to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and proposed unsuccessful legislation to allow two women to continue selling apples at their stand in the capitol’s vestibule. He made a motion to support an association to aid white widows and orphans in southern states. Owen consulted frequently with his former enslaver on issues that came before the assembly, especially various railroad consolidation bills. He voted with the majority in favor of the Funding Act of 1871, to provide for the payment of Virginia’s antebellum public debt. After his term in the assembly, he purchased land in Black Walnut District from his former enslaver’s son. Owen last appeared in the Halifax County personal property tax records in 1898 and probably died in that year or the next. His place of burial is not known.
Author: Kathy Lee Erlandson Liston
William H. Ragsdale (d. October 16, 1871)
William H. Ragsdale represented Charlotte County for a term (1869–1871) as one of the first African American members of the House of Delegates. Born enslaved, he learned to read and write, and at his marriage in 1868 gave his occupation as schoolteacher. Elected as a Radical Republican, he voted with the majority to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U. S. Constitution, granting citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States and enfranchising African American men. This ratification allowed Virginia to be readmitted to the United States. Ragsdale voted in favor of the Funding Act of 1871 to provide for the payment of Virginia’s antebellum public debt. He was confident of reelection for a second term, but instead he died just three weeks before the election.