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Alabama has the longest state constitution in America — by 10x. It all started in 1901 when the entire constitution was rewritten with explicit goals to establish White supremacy in the state. In doing so, a rule was written requiring an amendment to the constitution every time a law in the state — even one specific to only one county — is changed. For example, a constitutional amendment would need to be written for something as simple as prohibiting the overgrowth of weeds in a county.
The resulting Alabama constitution is three times longer than the world's next longest (in India) at approximately 389,000 words. And now, a new policy effort hopes to not only make this document easier to navigate, but also remove explicitly racist language such as:
- Section 256, which states that children are to be segregated in the school system, although already outlawed by the landmark Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education.
- Section 259, which includes requirements that disenfranchise Black voters, such as literacy tests and poll taxes.
- Section 32, which essentially says slavery is permissible as punishment for a crime. This section has served as a loop-hole for free prison labor, mostly of Black and Brown individuals. Similar language exists in the 13th Amendment of the U.S. constitution, also with calls for removal.
While many say these changes will unlikely change how the state already operates, politicians hope the symbolic move encourages the establishment of more businesses in the state and economic growth. But getting to this point hasn’t been easy with two failed attempts already. Alabama voters will make a final decision on the revised draft next Fall.
If successful, Alabama would be on trend with other states removing racist symbols and language from founding documents, such as in Utah, Nebraska, and Rhode Island last year.
🎬 Take Action
Equal Justice Initiative has a petition moving to totally abolish slavery in the U.S. by amending the 13th Amendment.
- New York Times (Where we found this story) 5 days old | 11 minutes long
- The Life of Law 1901 changes to constitution 7 years old | 18 minutes long
- Alabama Daily News Committee discusses slavery language 3 weeks old | 6 minutes long
- Public Integrity States removing racist language 1 year old | 11 minutes long
- Ballotpedia State constitution lengths 3 minutes long
- Washington Monthly War on 13th Amendment 5 months old | 22 minutes long
(\ \'\ \'\ __________ / '| ()_________) \ '/ \ ~~~~~~~~ \ \ \ ~~~~~~ \ ==). \__________\ (__) ()__________)
Preamble? More like Pre-ramble, am I right?!
Art Credit: Below the Fold