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Alabama removes racist language from Constitution: 'We're not the same Alabama of 1901'

The State Constitution has not been amended since 1901. Following two failed motions, the document will finally be updated.

Alabama removes racist language from Constitution: 'We're not the same Alabama of 1901'
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Following a third vote to make changes to Alabama's Consitution from the year 1901, the State government has successfully passed a referendum to remove, among other things, discriminatory language from the document. The government is currently in the process of drafting amendments to the State Constitution. The changes would mark an end to the final remnants of Jim Crow-era laws that separated Black folks from accessing the same rights White folks could. A Committee on the Recompilation of the Constitution, newly established by the vote, will deliberate on the changes to be made to the document, Good News Network reports.


Representative Merika Coleman, a Democrat from the district of Pleasant Grove, stated following the vote, "It sends a message out about who we are. 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." The Representative was the main sponsor of the amendment and currently chairs the newly-formed Committee on the Recompilation of the Constitution. The recent vote is particularly meaningful as similar votes, one in 2004 and another in 2014, failed to pass a referendum on the motion.


"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constitution, as amended, in proper articles, parts, and sections removing all racist language, delete duplicative and repealed provisions, consolidate provisions regarding economic development, arrange all local amendments by county of application during the 2022 Regular Session of the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 the changes to the Constitution reads. As of now, three major changes are expected to be made to the document, all pertaining to Jim Crow-era laws.


The first is an amendment to the following passage in the State Constitution: "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." This passage is followed by another which permits the State to confiscate children and place them in whichever institution they wish to, regardless of their parents’ will. Both passages will be removed. The second change will address prisoners' rights. At present, the Constitution states involuntary servitude is unlawful in the land, except in the case of prisoners. This has led to exploitative working conditions in prisons across Alabama, affecting Black men disproportionately in comparison to their White counterparts. This passage will be replaced by another from the Federal Constitution. Third, another passage regarding poll taxes will be scrapped, given that poll taxes no longer exist.


Representative Danny Garrett, a Republican from Trussville and a recompilation committee member, reiterated the importance of amending the Constitution in order to ensure it aligns with the values the people of Alabama hold today. "I think words matter," he affirmed. "And I think we need to just clean the constitution up, make it a document that is relevant today. We have a history that we’re trying to address. And we’re trying to move from the past to the future. And I think this is an obstacle in many ways. I think it’s important that as a State with our history that we acknowledge where we want to go. And where we want to go is not where we’ve been necessarily."


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