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State of Change:

About the Exhibit

State of Change: Civil Rights and the Virginia Constitution is a collaborative project of the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons. The exhibit creators are: 

Andrew L. Pearson, Director of the Forrer Learning Commons first introduced the idea of an exhibit to celebrate the 2021 50th anniversary of the Virginia Constitution. Pearson was inspired by the work of UVA Professor A. E. Dick Howard. Professor Howard was the executive director of the commission to revise the previous Virginia constitution. He is an author, educator, and authority on constitutional law.

Researching the history of Virginia constitutions took us on a journey through time. Although there are many elements to be explored within the Virginia Constitution, we are drawn to the themes of racial and criminal justice. In this exhibit, we interpret how the 1971 revision of the Virginia constitution nullified Jim Crow laws written into the previous (1902) version. We use primary sources to interpret what life was like in late 19th to mid-20th century Virginia for Black and multiracial citizens. We give some examples of how responses to Reconstruction impacted Virginia’s political thought.

The 50th anniversary of the revised constitution is a cause for celebration! It shows that fifty years ago, Virginians came together behind free, desegregated public education for all. The 1971 constitution was also important in its reversal of the onerous voting regulations imposed on Blacks and poor whites by the 1902 constitution. 

These themes of reformation mirror our own time. As we celebrate the civil rights aspects of the 1971 Virginia Constitution, we continue to witness criminal and racial justice evolve in Virginia. We continue to work for a freer society for all, just as those members of the Commission on Constitutional Revision did back in 1969.

This exhibit includes interpretive text and digitized primary sources. Many of the primary sources that we interpret are preserved in the Robert R. Newlen ‘75 and John C. Bradford Special Collections in the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons. 

The exhibit is in three parts. They are:

  • A selection of circulating books to help you learn more about the issues that we interpret (located by the Services Desk in the FLC)
  • a history display outside the Special Collections suite (FLC lower level)
  • and an online exhibit found at

Thank you for taking this timely and sometimes difficult journey with us.