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The Carroll County Courthouse Massacre, 1886: A Cold Case File lesson plan

OVERVIEW

The 1886 Carroll County Courthouse Massacre took place in Carrollton, Mississippi. Twenty-three black Mississippians were gun downed on March 17 while attending a trial at the local courthouse. None of the armed men who launched the attack were ever brought to justice, and the county, state, and federal government never pursued an investigation into the murders. Other than several newspaper articles published in 1886, no official state record exists of the massacre. It remains a little-known cold case in Mississippi’s state history.

CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 2, and 4

TEACHING LEVEL

Grades 7 through 12

MATERIALS AND/OR EQUIPMENT

OBJECTIVES

The students will:

  • Analyze the Mississippi History Now article.
  • Predict alternative outcomes for a historical event.

OPENING THE LESSON

The teacher will write the word “massacre” on the classroom board. The teacher will ask the students the following questions to generate class discussion.

  • What is the definition of massacre?
  • Can you name massacres that have occurred in world history? American history? Mississippi history?

As the students name examples of massacres, the teacher will list them on the board and will add to the list the Carroll County Courthouse Massacre. The teacher will ask students if they are familiar with it. The teacher will tell the students that they will learn about the Carroll County Courthouse Massacre over the next several days.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

  • The teacher will distribute a copy of the worksheet found at the end of the lesson plan or the diagram can be placed on the classroom board for students to copy into their notebooks.
  • The teacher will instruct the students to read the Mississippi History Now article, “The Carroll County Courthouse Massacre, 1886: A Cold Case File.” Students should record their initial thoughts of the article in the appropriate area of the diagram.
  • After the students have independently read the article and recorded their thoughts on the diagram, they should either choose a partner or be assigned one. The students should discuss their thoughts about the article with their partners. After the discussion, the students should reflect on the discussion, and record their thoughts in the appropriate area on the diagram.
  • The teacher will ask the students to reread the article and re-examine their thoughts about the article. The students should record their thoughts in the appropriate area on the diagram.
  • After completing the activity, the teacher can lead a class discussion on the article based upon the student readings and diagrams.

For the next portion of the lesson, the teacher will assign the students into groups of three or no more than four to complete a SPAWN activity. Each group should be assigned one of the following questions that focuses on a specific approach to analyzing the Mississippi History Now article. Depending on the class size, it may be necessary for several groups to respond to the same question. The groups should write a written response to their assigned question.

(*S*pecial Powers) You have been granted special powers. You use them to stop the Carroll County Courthouse Massacre in 1886. How is history different because you choose to use your powers in this way?

(*P*roblem) President Grover Cleveland and Mississippi Governor Robert Lowry refused to launch an investigation into the Carroll County Courthouse Massacre. How would you have addressed this problem differently in 1886?

(*A*lternative Viewpoints) You are a journalist who has traveled to Carroll County, Mississippi, in May 1886. What do you see throughout the county? What are people saying about the massacre?

(*W*hat If) What if former U.S. Senator Blanche K. Bruce was able to convenience President Grover Cleveland to launch a federal investigation, how would history be different?

(*N*ext) No one was ever brought to justice for the Carroll County Courthouse Massacre and it still remains a cold case today. In fact, little has been written about this event. What, if anything, should be done to historically record this event?

The teacher will ask for student volunteers to share their group’s paragraph with the class.

CLOSING THE LESSON

The teacher will ask the class the following questions:

Why do you think very little has been written about the Carroll County Courthouse Massacre?

What would be the most befitting way to memorialize this event?

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

• Class participation
• Worksheets or diagrams
SPAWN written paragraphs

EXTENDING THE LESSON

Research Mississippi’s local, state and federal leaderships mentioned in the Mississippi History Now article.

Use other Mississippi History Now articles to create a week-long unit on black history.

Research newspaper accounts of the Carroll County Courthouse Massacre.

Design a state historical marker that memorializes the massacre.

REFERENCES

Allen, Janet. Tools for Teaching Content Literacy. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 2004.

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