Voter Registration in Alexandria, Virginia : African-Americans, 1902-1954

Once African-Americans in Alexandria gained the right to vote, they consistently participated in the electoral process. This participation took place within the confines of segregation, a legally sanctioned way of life throughout Virginia. The races could not buy houses in the same neighborhoods, attend the same schools, or use the same libraries. This separation of the races included the voter registration rolls.

A community's list of registered voters links individuals to a time and place. Family historians and genealogists will find these lists a valuable source of information. The Alexandria, Virginia voter registration rolls include personal data such as birthdate, marital status, occupation, and more. Family units and neighborhoods can be re-created. Changes in the population can be followed over time. As is the case with many genealogical sources, the original data is "inconsistent." For example, sometimes a complete birth date (month/day/year) is available but often only a year is given.

Database Contents -- This database was created after a careful review of the microfilmed voter registration roll books in the Local History/Special Collections Division. The original roll books are located in the City of Alexandria Archives and Record Center. When data is missing from the roll book, " --- " appears in the appropriate database column. When data is illegible, "?" or "???" appears in the appropriate database column.

Precincts -- During the period 1902-1954, African-American voters registered in six precincts: Armory Hall (ARM), City Hall (CH), Fire Engine House #5 (FIRE), Friendship (FRIEND), Lee School (LEE), and Oddfellows Hall (ODD). A precinct's roll book may have been re-copied. Consequently, there may be more than one voter list for a precinct on a microfilm reel. When a book was copied, details about a person may have been changed, e.g. "Charles" becomes "Charlie" or information may have been transcribed incorrectly, e.g. "Ava" becomes "Ada." These discrepancies have been captured in this database.


Names -- This database contains close to 2,100 entries. Some of the names appear more than once, at the same address, but in different voting precincts. Precinct boundaries were subject to change. In some cases, there are variations of a name. The same woman may be registered as "Mrs C B Chissell" and "Mrs Connie B Chissell" in a total of three precincts.

Occupations -- The meaning of job titles changes within a social context. A "fireman" is more likely a "person who stoked engines" than a "firefighter." Similarly, a "housekeeper" has different responsibilities than a "housewife." A woman who works as an "operator" is more likely a "beauty parlor operator" or "hairdresser" than a "telephone company operator." Sometimes, a person reported "place of work" instead of "occupation," e.g. "Torpedo Factory," "Navy Yard." If a person reported his occupation as "mch helper" or "pipe ins," the database reflects this. Similarly, if a person reported her occupation as "steno" in one precinct but as "stenographer" in another, the database includes both entries. In the interest of clarity, this database standardized some terms, e.g. "printer's asst" and "schoolteacher" for "printer's assistant" and "school teacher."

Addresses -- Street addresses are reported as given. Sometimes, a person's residence was recorded as a location, e.g. "Lincolnia" or "Route 2, Box 79" instead of as a street address. When two addresses appear in same space on the voter registration roll, both addresses are reported in this database and separated by a slash mark, e.g. "719 N West/1012 Cameron."

Comments -- The voter registration rolls show the length of time that a person lived in the state, the county, and the city. This information is not included in the database but may be located on the microfilm. Occasionally, the registrar noted that a person had moved into or out of a precinct. This information is not included in the database. However, the database does make note of moves into and out of Alexandria. In some cases, the registrar noted a date of death. This information is included in the database.

Researchers might also want to refer to Guide to African-American Resources. The guide presents an overview of relevant materials in the Alexandria Library Local History/Special Collections division. 


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