Alabama Begins Removing Racist Language From Its Constitution
The Jim Crow amendments in the Alabama Constitution are being removed after a 2020 vote succeeded where two attempts had failed before.
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The state government of Alabama is drafting amendments to its 1901 State Constitution that would remove, among other things, discriminatory language.
The changes would mark the end of the last remaining legal remnants of what are generally referred to as Jim Crow laws, which created a state-sponsored education system separated by race, and in which the Constitution allowed state authorities to forcibly place children in the educational institution of the state’s choosing.
Having failed to pass referendums on the motion in 2004 and 2014, a 2020 third-time’s-the-charm vote got the job done; it established the Committee on the Recompilation of the Constitution, who will proceed to remove the Jim Crow passages, as well as others like poll taxes, duplicate language, and more.
“It sends a message out about who we are,” said Rep. Merika Coleman, a Democrat from Pleasant Grove, who chairs the committee and sponsored the amendment.
“It is important for us to let folks know we are a 21st century Alabama, that we’re not the same Alabama of 1901 that didn’t want Black and white folks to get married, that didn’t think that Black and white children should go to school together,” she said, according to AP.
“The Legislature, upon the recommendation of the Director of the Legislative Services
Agency through a proposed draft, may arrange this constitution, as amended, in proper
articles, parts, and sections removing all racist language, delete duplicative and repealed
provisions, consolidate provisions regarding economic development, arrange all local
amendments by county of application during the 2022 Regular Session of the Legislature,
and make no other changes,” a memo regarding to the recompilation writes.
The most egregious piece of writing within the constitution is probably familiar to some, and states: “Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race,” but another passage that declares the state shall be able to confiscate children and place them in whichever institution they want, regardless of their parents’ will, is also set to be removed.
Another passage about poll taxes is being scrapped, as there’s no such thing as a poll tax anymore anyway.
Lastly, a passage regarding involuntary servitude being unlawful in the land, except in the case of prisoners, is being changed to a very similar passage from the Federal Constitution. This particular article led, according to AP, to generations of Black men spending their prison sentences in backbreaking labor.