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

Lesson 4: An Opposite View

1. Background information for teachers:

This lesson should be used with Lesson 3 in order to demonstrate differences of opinion in an historical setting.

 

In the late 1880s and early 1890s the political power of the "Bourbon" Conservative Democrats was challenged for the first time since they had "redeemed" Alabama from Republican rule and Reconstruction. The Farmers' Alliance arose in the 1880s to demand state intervention on behalf of small farmers. Initially working within the Democratic Party, the reform movement by the 1890s became increasingly independent with some of its more radical members suggesting that small farmers ally with urban laborers and blacks (there was a Colored Alliance, too) to press their agenda for cooperative commerce and debt relief.

 

John T. Milner, a Birmingham-area engineer-turned-industrial developer, articulated the successful Conservative counterattack. He warned in an 1890 pamphlet "White Men of Alabama Stand Together" of the dangers of returning to Republican rule and the turmoil of Reconstruction should the white man desert the Democratic Party. The same arguments would be advanced eleven years later by proponents of the 1901 Constitution.

 

2. Learning Objectives:
Upon completion of this lesson, students should be able to:

    1. Identify and discuss opposite historical positions.

     

    2. Synthesize a letter of response using historical background.

 

3. Suggested Activities:

    1. Provide copies of Document 1, the pamphlet, "White Men of Alabama Stand Together."

     

    2. Ask the students to use the general suggestions for analyzing a written document while reading the excerpts from the pamphlet.

     

    3. Ask the students the following questions:
      a. What is Milner's reason for writing this pamphlet?

       

      b. How do you think that writings like these helped to move white north Alabamians from their support of the Republican party?

       

      c. After reading this, can you determine Milner's political party preference?

     

    4. Allow the students to compare and contrast Milner's publication with the address To the Members of the Alabama Constitutional Convention.

     

    5. Assign the following:

     

    You are Booker T. Washington. You have just read Senator Milner's pamphlet. Write a letter to Sen. Milner explaining the need for equal suffrage.

 

Document:
John Milner, White Men of Alabama Stand Together, Pamphlet Collection - Subjects, LPR117, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

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