Sept. 3, 1901
In 1901 the post-Reconstruction Alabama Legislature approved a statewide referendum calling for a constitutional convention, with a goal of disenfranchising black voters. The referendum was approved by Alabama voters in April, with the help of substantial vote fraud in the Black Belt. By May, 155 delegates had been selected; they met throughout the summer. On Sept. 3, they approved a new state constitution that put in place new voter restrictions but further concentrated power in the Legislature by reducing opportunities for home rule, at the behest of the state’s industrial and agricultural interests. While much of the racist language in the original 1901 Constitution has since been removed, and other changes made, the document continues to affect Alabama politics. One example: Because of limitations on home rule still ingrained in the constitution, many local issues must still come before the Legislature and be determined through local constitutional amendments. It’s one of the reasons Alabama’s constitution has ballooned to include more than 900 amendments. That compares to the U.S. Constitution, with just 27 amendments. In recent years, there have been efforts to reform the state’s constitution, potentially through another state convention.
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.