The 1870s: The Constitutional Convention of 1875
While the country was gripped by depression from 1873 to 1875, Texas's new Democratic governor, Richard Coke, and the legislature worked to remove Reconstruction policies, decentralize government, and regain political control in Texas by holding a Constitutional Convention in 1875 in Austin. The Democrats wanted to rewrite the constitution to reflect their own policies of white superiority and the right of the state to govern itself with little federal intervention. Of the 90 delegates, six were African American, and all were members of the Republican Party. (After only a day or so, delegate Melvin Goddin resigned, and his place was taken by a white Democrat.) Amidst the hostile anti-Republican atmosphere, African-American delegates worked to prevent the loss of voting rights and public education. Ratified by voters in 1876, the constitution reiterated that the right to vote could not be restricted by race, although it could be restricted by sex. (A proposed bill for women's suffrage was ignored during the convention.) The constitution also reduced the governor's powers, which Davis had recently increased; established a ceiling on the state debt; declared that the Legislature would meet biennially instead of every year; and provided for the election of district and supreme court judges as well as the reduction of terms of some state offices. This constitution, since modified many times, is still in effect today. None of the African-American delegates to the 1875 Constitutional Convention participated in the Texas legislature again.