Nothing symbolized how much the Civil War had transformed the order
of daily life in Dallas County more than the promising po­liti­cal ­ career of
Jeremiah Haralson, the former slave of a young Selma attorney. Haralson
had been born into bondage near Columbus, Georgia, and sold twice be-
fore traveling the well-­worn path to the Alabama Black ­ Belt in 1859 at the
age of thirteen. Founded in 1818, Dallas County was an area of fertile farm-
land a thousand miles square that tripled in population during its first two
de­cades. The slave-­ tr ading season started on September  1 and continued
through April  1 each year. Traders brought thousands of enslaved men and ­
women from other parts of the South to be sold at the three-­ s tory wooden
auction ­ house in Selma. ­ There, the crowd of well-off ­ white men in the sit-
ting room surveyed their potential purchases before buying slaves to ­labor
in their cotton fields. More cotton came from Dallas County’s soil in the
antebellum period than from anywhere ­ else in Alabama, which made its
white planters some of the most power­ful men in the state. By the time the
Selma attorney purchased Haralson, 1,280 slaveholders in Dallas County
owned 25,760 black men, ­ women, and ­ children.1
The Constitution of 1901
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