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Using Primary Sources in the Classroom:
The Alabama Constitution of 1901 Unit

Lesson 5: Voting After the Constitution of 1901

1. Background information for teachers:

The Constitution of 1901 included a host of new voting requirements to restrict suffrage to "the intelligent and the virtuous voter." The new requirements were designed to take away the vote of African Americans without running afoul of the 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited denying the right to vote on the basis of race.

 

Residency and literacy requirements along with poll tax and property qualifications were included, as was a provision that voters be engaged in a lawful business. Poor whites who might have been disqualified by these restrictions could be "grandfathered" in for life if they or their ancestors had served in the military or if they were of "good character" and "understood the duties of citizenship." The new Constitution effectively disfranchised nearly all black Alabamians and dramatically reduced the numbers of white voters as well.

 

2. Learning Objectives:
Upon completion of this lesson, students should be able to:
    1. Define the terms "suffrage" and "poll tax."

     

    2. Discuss the limitations of suffrage as written in the 1901 constitution.

     

    3. Compare and contrast voting qualifications and rights from the Jim Crow era and those
    of the present.

 

3. Suggested Activities/Analysis for Entire Lesson:
    1. Make a copy of Document 1.

     

    2. Ask the students to use the general suggestions for analyzing a written document.

     

    3. Ask the students to guess why J. G. Crommelin, Jr. was given a certificate of registration for life.

     

    4. Make a copy of the Synopsis of Voting Requirements.

     

    5. After reading the voting requirements, ask the students which of the provisions might have been met by J. G. Crommelin, Jr.

     

    6. Ask the students to list those people who could NOT vote under the provisions of the new constitution.

     

    7. Make a copy of Document 2 and Document 3.

     

    8. Allow the students to compare the numbers of white and black voters who had to pay the poll tax in each document.

     

    9. Allow the students to compare and contrast the numbers of white and black voters from the Perry County, Radfordville precinct in 1892 (Document 2) and in 1902 (Document 3). What can be gathered from this data?

     

    10. Using reference materials, ask the students to find out the qualifications for voting in the present time.

     

    11. Ask the students to make a list of similarities and differences between voting rights of the present time and those of 1901.

 

Documents:
Document 1: "Life certificate of registration," Crommelin Family Papers, LPR62, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 2: "List of Registered Voters, Radsfordville Precinct, Perry County, 1892," LG5494 folder 2, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 3: "Poll List, Radsfordville Precinct, Perry County, 1902," LG2313, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.