Brentsville District poll books from 1902 need your help to be preserved.
Poll books were written records of individuals who voted in an election, and at that time, the books were separate by ethnicity, with “white” and “colored” poll books.
These artifacts have been named by the Virginia Association of Museums as one of the Top 10 Endangered Artifacts of 2017, and if it receives the most votes, $5,000 will be put toward restoring the books, according to a release.
“The poll books need a lot of attention on rebinding, stabilizing the paper and restoring the leather on the covers. They’re really just coming apart,” stated Prince William Preservationist Sarah Nucci in a release.
More on voting, from a release:
Voting will be available online at www.vatop10artifacts.org between Jan. 15 and Jan. 24 and can be cast once a day from a unique IP address, Nucci said. “You don’t have to be from Virginia. Anybody anywhere in the world that wants to can vote.”
Restoring the poll books is incredibly important because they represent one of the first opportunities for African American men to vote, Nucci said. They also represent the state-sponsored voter disenfranchisement of African Americans that lasted until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act ended poll taxes, which were about 1 percent of an African American male’s annual income at the time, the impromptu constitutional tests given by the local registrars, and the tests African American voters had to take to be able to prove they could read and write before they were allowed to vote.
“These poll books are very important in telling the story of American history,” said Nucci. “We are so excited that we have these artifacts in Prince William County, and we are hoping that everyone out there votes for the poll books so we can restore them and share that piece of history with our residents.”
Voting lasts until January. Click here to learn more and to vote.