Today marks the 112th Anniversary of the adoption of Alabama’s 1901 Constitution. As we look back over these last 112 years, we must look to the purpose behind the document which, even now in 2013, governs our state. From the very beginning the desire to restrict access to voting was paramount in the minds of those who crafted this hateful document. This battle is far from over, and we must continue to fight, lest we wake to find this age-old goal has been once again achieved in our own time. To this end, we share an excerpt from a speech delivered in 2012 by GBM’s Executive Director, Scott Douglas.
NO PUBLIC INSTITUTION EVER CREATED IN ALABAMA WAS CREATED, IN THE FIRST PLACE, TO SERVE ALL PEOPLE.
Let’s go further; the current constitution of Alabama, the longest constitution in the known world, the Alabama constitution of 1901, has the stated purpose, according to the President of the 1901 Constitutional Convention of “establishing white supremacy by law”. Now, I am assuming that everyone knows what “white supremacy” means. Even so, let’s look at white supremacy in the language of the theme of this convention. What it — white supremacy — means to people of color is “No Voice, No Vote, No Victories”.
NO VOICE, NO VOTES, NO VICTORIES.
White supremacy does NOT mean ALL whites are supreme in all ways. It means that if Blacks and other people of color only get crumbs from the table, poor whites get a crumb and one/tenth. Not a cake…not even a biscuit, but a crumb and a tenth – if that.
The 1901 constitution that removed Black men from the voting rolls also removed poor whites because of the poll tax it instituted. Even then, back in 1901, as racist as Alabama was in having removed large numbers of Black men from the polls already, having already seen the withdrawal of federal troops and their protections, even then the white supremacists of the 1901 Constitution had to lie, cheat and steal to pass the Alabama Constitution of 1901. Our current constitution was conceived in racial hate and passed by voting fraud in the largest single voter fraud con job in United States History.
In majority black – Black Belt counties that had black majorities, but were under white rule and control. You would have to believe that Black men voted in overwhelming numbers – in fact, cast more votes than there were Black men, voted in overwhelming numbers for a constitution that was known – known at the time – to have provisions that they would never vote again! OK, y’all, there’s some get out the vote people in the room, how about that for get out the vote mobilization “Vote for this and you’ll never have to vote again! Not you, your children or your children’s children!”!
Of course black men didn’t vote like that. Under black majority with white rule, black men voted, white men counted and the result is the Alabama Constitution of 1901 which was intended to end the voice, end the vote and end the victories for Black Alabamians.
BUT, thank God, it did not end there. It never does. Defeat is never the end of battle. In the struggle for justice the only lasting defeat comes when the battle is no longer fought. We get pushed down, but we get up. We didn’t get up in 1920 when white women got the right to vote, but years and pools of blood and pools of tears later there was the bus in Montgomery, the streets in Birmingham and the bridge in Selma.
Those streets were not self-filled, those buses were not self-boycotted, and that bridge was not self-crossed. It took the courage and leadership of men like you and women like you and boys who became men and girls who became women to empty the buses to ride them with dignity, to fill the streets to walk them in respect and to cross that bridge to deliver the vote.
Today throughout the states, at the national level and in Alabama, once again, our vote is under attack. The one percent rules not just because of money and the power that money brings, that alone, is not enough in a country that can proclaim democracy on one hand and deny democracy on the other. The only way to secure their role in this country is to confuse white people and deny black people and people of color. What they do is: Confuse where possible, Deny where necessary, PASS VOTER ID LAWS AS POWER PERMITS.
In the constitution of 1901, because of the Civil War amendments to the US Constitution, they could not just say Black folks could not vote, they needed deceit. Thus came the poll tax at about a week or two wages at the time, about $1.50. Today, new tactics are needed, and the requirement of a state-issued photo ID has become the poll tax of our time.
In 2014, as polls across the state open once more, the future of Alabama will again be held in the hands of those with the freedom to cast their vote, and again opponents of justice assail that hard-fought freedom.
Today we are called upon to act to ensure the right to vote will be retained by all Alabamians. Help register new voters! Help individuals obtain appropriate photo identification! Help provide transportation to the polls!
Likewise, it is long past time for a new constitution in Alabama. Let your legislators know that you believe Alabama needs a governing document representative of all Alabamians, and a simple re-write of a few, select sections isn’t nearly enough.