Alabama seeks to remove racist language from Constitution

Published 4:15 am Friday, February 25, 2022

Alabama lawmakers have begun a process to remove racist language from the state’s 121-year-old Constitution.

The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday voted 94-0 for the resolution by Rep. Merika Coleman that streamlines the massive state document and removes lingering Jim Crow language. The legislation now moves to the Alabama Senate. If approved, it would go before voters in November.

The proposal would strip language on segregated schools, poll taxes and language that allowed a brutal convict lease system that sold Black men, often arrested under questionable circumstances, into forced labor.

While those provisions have largely been invalidated by court rulings, the vestiges of Jim Crow remain in the state’s chief governing document, such as the fight to maintain segregated schools.

The pending proposal also reorganizes the massive, sprawling document that has nearly 1,000 constitutional amendments to try to make it more user friendly.

The process began in 2020 after voters approved an amendment authorizing the streamlining of the state governing document.
The proposal has bipartisan support.

“For several years, we’ve been working on cleaning up the Constitution and the wording in it, and this will move us forward with helping to accomplish that. There is some racist terminology in there and this is going to address some of that,” House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said.

Proponents in Alabama are hopeful this effort will succeed where others have failed.

Voters in the mostly white, conservative state had rejected similar proposals twice since 2000 after they became intertwined with school funding issues. State voters in 2000 did vote to remove a ban on interracial marriages but about 40% of voters cast ballots to keep the interracial marriage ban in the Constitution.