Department of Historic Resources
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2019
Contact: Randy Jones, DHR
—Virginia Voters League, founded in 1941, supported education, registration, and other activities that increased African American voter participation—
—The marker text is reproduced below—
RICHMOND – A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated this weekend that recalls the founding and advocacy work of the Virginia Voters League, which encouraged and supported voter participation among African Americans beginning in the 1940s.
The public ceremony to dedicate the marker begins at 4 p.m., this Sunday, June 23, at First Baptist Church, located at 236 Harrison Street in Petersburg.
Speakers during the event will include former Petersburg Mayor Dr. Florence S. Farley and current Petersburg Mayor Samuel Parham; Professor Gary Baker of Virginia State University; Col. Howard G. Cooley, retired, United States Army; and Marc Wagner of the Department of Historic Resources.
Following the ceremony at the church, the marker will be unveiled at its location in the 100 block of South Avenue, around the corner from First Baptist Church.
Founded in Petersburg in 1941, the Virginia Voters League was a “federation of local organizations that advocated for African American voters,” the marker reads. The League was organized by Professor Luther P Jackson of what is now Virginia State University, educator James P. Spencer, and attorneys Robert H. Cooley Jr. and Raymond J. Valentine.
The League “allied itself with the NAACP and other civil rights organizations,” the marker states. Its activities supported educating constituents about the rights of citizenship, voter registration, and other efforts that led to increased participation in voting among African Americans.
The Virginia Voters League marker was approved for manufacture and installation by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new historical markers. The manufacturing cost of the marker was covered by a federal grant.
Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority such as Petersburg.
[PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.]
Text of state historical marker:
Virginia Voters League
The Virginia Voters League, founded in 1941 and headquartered in this neighborhood of Petersburg, was a federation of local organizations that advocated for African American voters. Professor Luther P. Jackson (of what is now Virginia State University), together with attorneys Robert H. Cooley Jr. and Raymond J. Valentine and educator James P. Spencer, organized the League, which allied itself with the NAACP and other civil rights organizations. The group educated its constituents about the rights of citizenship, promoted poll-tax payment and voter registration, and assuaged new voters’ anxieties, leading to an increase in voter participation among African Americans.
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Updated June 21, 2019