Alabama moves toward removing racist language from Constitution
An Alabama panel gave approval on Wednesday for a plan specifying how the state would remove antiquated racist language from its constitution.
The Joint Interim Committee on the Recompilation of the Constitution’s recommendations will become a constitutional amendment that the Alabama legislature will take up in January. If the legislature approves the proposal, voters will consider them next November, according to The Montgomery Advertiser.
“The document is supposed to reflect who we are as a state,” Democratic state Rep. Merika Coleman, who chairs the committee, told the Advertiser. “We’re Black, we’re white, we’re Democrats, Republicans, we’re rich, and we’re poor.”
Under the proposal, the Alabama’s constitution would lose language about a poll tax, which disenfranchised Black voters and poor whites and was banned by the U.S. Constitution’s 24th Amendment, as well as a phrase about children being able to “attend schools provided for their own race,” the Advertiser reported.
A clause about involuntary servitude, which once served as the legal basis to arrest Black citizens and force them into strenuous and sometimes deadly work, would also be removed.
Colorado, Nebraska and Utah have already removed similar language from their constitutions, the newspaper noted.
“I think this is a great first step, righting some of the wrongs of the past of the state of Alabama,” Coleman added. “We know the spirit in which the document was written, and it was written specifically to disenfranchise not only Black Alabamians, but also poor Alabamians.”
The Advertiser added that no committee members opposed the proposal to the constitution, which was enacted in 1901.
In May, Alabama’s state legislature voted to create a 10-member commission, which includes six lawmakers and four others, to discuss changes to the governing document. The group met in September to begin the efforts.
Last year, Alabamians voted in favor of a measure to rid its state constitution of language originally used to enforce Jim Crow-era restrictions.