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Northam Commission To Recommend Repealing Jim Crow-Era Laws

Cynthia Hudson

The commission that Governor Ralph Northam convened this summer to examine racial inequity in Virginia law is set to release its first report next week. It will recommend the repeal of dozens of 20th century policies that enforced racial segregation in Virginia.

Gov. Northam signed an executive order in June creating the commission, four months after he was accused of appearing in a yearbook photo that showed a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hat. Northam denied being in the photo. 

The Governor’s Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law has for the past three months, mined the Virginia Acts of Assembly, Virginia Code and administrative regulations for blatant discrimination and racially-discriminatory language.

“We’ve reviewed and found in those acts very express and very intentional public policy that anyone would describe as racist,” said Cynthia Hudson, chair of the commission

Some of the laws include separate accommodations for white and black passengers on modes of transit and a ban on requiring children to attend integrated schools. 

Hudson calls these initial recommendations “low hanging fruit” because the laws are unconstitutional and no longer enforced. However, she said she expects the commission will continue unearthing Jim Crow-era policies.

“And expand it to include a more incisive and careful look at legislation that may not be expressly racially discriminatory but in its impact, effectively discriminates on the basis of race,” she said. 

The commission will issue a full list of recommendations by Friday, November 15.



Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.