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Black men voting

Reconstruction plans issued by Congress in 1867 required that Mississippi grant voting rights to black men. As a result, seventy-eight whites and sixteen blacks were elected as delegates to the 1868 Constitutional Convention.
Courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History

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The Mississippi Constitution of 1868

By 1868, momentous changes had occurred in Mississippi since the Constitution of 1832 was written. Slavery had grown enormously in Mississippi before the Civil War. By 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, black slaves outnumbered white Mississippians. The sale of Indian lands had created a great boom in cotton agriculture.

In 1860, the United States was being split: the South was generally a slave-owning society, while the North predominately favored emancipation. The issue of slavery precipitated the Civil War. At the end of that great war, Mississippi was devastated, and slavery was destroyed. Former slaves received civil rights, and government came into the hands of former slaves. In this revolutionary time, called Reconstruction, the Constitution of 1868 was written. It was the first Mississippi Constitution sent to the people for ratification.

Among the provisions of the 1868 Constitution were:

  • Voting rights for black males, as required by Congress.
  • Framework for comprehensive system of public schools for the state.
  • Protection of property rights for married women.
  • Governor's term extended from two to four years.
  • Judges above the rank of justice of the peace appointed by governor.
  • Future apportionment of the legislature to be based on qualified voters.

To read the 1868 Constitution, go here.

John Ray Skates, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history, University of Southern Mississippi.

Posted September 2000

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