Author: Kathy Lee Erlandson Liston

a retired archaeologist, for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, a publication of the Library of Virginia

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.

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