"Big Mules" is a political term coined by Bibb Graves in 1926 to describe the influence of the wealthy industrialists and utility executives of the Birmingham District over state politics. In his phrasing, they acted, "like a big mule hitched behind a cart full of corn, contentedly eating its contents, while a much smaller mule struggled to pull the cart forward."
The term was further popularized by Jim Folsom Sr, who frequently railed against the "Black Belt-Big Mule Coalition," a legislative voting block which marginalized the political ambitions of rural counties outside of the Black Belt and, as a result, often stood in the way of populist and reform-minded proposals. Folsom's campaign succeeded in bringing a reform agenda to the state capitol, but regressive attitudes on racial issues prevailed during the mid-20th century as federal courts struck down segregation laws.
- Permaloff, Anne (February 21, 2011) "Black Belt-Big Mule Coalition" Encyclopedia of Alabama - accessed December 6, 2019