Tennessee’s three constitutions will be available for public view at the new State Library and Archives building on June 1 to celebrate the state’s 225th birthday. It’s a rare opportunity to see the documents, which are usually kept in vaults for preservation.
“Caring for these documents is important not only for history, but for government,” says state librarian and archivist Chuck Sherrill, “because they do lay the foundation for state government.”
The state’s first constitution is from 1796. The second was adopted in 1835 and updated after the Civil War.
“There had been a sort of temporary constitutional convention, which provided voting rights to freedmen but denied voting rights to anyone who had supported the Confederacy,” Sherrill says. “That affected the majority of white men in Tennessee, and so they were unable to vote.”
But that changed in 1870, when the new constitution came along. That’s the state constitution we still have today.
The three constitutions will be on display for one day only, from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.