Alabama Begins Removing Racist Language From Its Constitution

September 22, 2021

Many outdated provisions have long since been invalidated, but the language that was specifically intended to enshrine white supremacy has remained.

The last time Alabama politicians rewrote their State Constitution, back in 1901, their aspirations were explicitly racist: to establish white supremacy in this state.

The new Constitution eliminates the ignorant Negro vote and places the control of our government where God Almighty intended it should be with the Anglo-Saxon race, John Knox, the president of the constitutional convention, said in a speech encouraging voters to ratify the document that year.

One hundred twenty years later, the Jim Crow-era laws that disenfranchised Black voters and enforced segregation across Alabama are gone, but the offensive language written into the State Constitution remains. Now, as communities across the South reconsider racist symbols and statues, activists in Alabama who have labored for 20 years to convince voters that rewriting their Constitution is important and long overdue see an opportunity to get it done.

I am tired of being treated as a second-class citizen, and terms like colored’ that are throughout the Constitution play a part in that feeling, said Marva Douglas, an actress and retired teacher who first joined Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform in the early 2000s.

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