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Mission Churches and Multi-Ethnicity on the Mississippi Frontier Lesson Plan


During the early nineteenth century, multi-ethnic communities were located throughout the state of Mississippi. In the nineteenth century south, one would expect that all institutions of society were segregated, including religious worship. Surprisingly, whites, Native Americans, and enslaved African Americans worshipped alongside one another in mission churches located in the central and northeast sections of the state.

In mission churches such as the Monroe Mission (near present-day Pontotoc), whites, enslaved African Americans, and members of the Chickasaw tribe not only worshipped together, but African Americans and Native Americans held leadership roles, and became missionaries themselves. African Americans and Native Americans also experienced higher levels of ecclesiastical equalities in the mission frontier churches compared to more urban churches in Natchez and other areas of the state. This semblance of church equality found in the missions to the Chickasaw existed in Mississippi until the U.S. government initiated the removal of the Chickasaw from their ancestral lands in the 1830s.

Curricular Connections

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1 and 4

Common Core Standards

RH.5; WHST.2, 4, 6, 7; SL.1

Teaching Level

Grades 9 through 12



The student will:

1. Determine the causes and effects of a historical event;
2. Compose a cause and effect essay;
3. Research a historical topic; and
4. Think of a way to use this history to begin to bring reconciliation to different races in Mississippi.

Opening the Lesson

The teacher will give the students a blank map of Mississippi that includes all 82 counties and major rivers of the state. The teacher will ask the students to locate and label the following items on the map: (1) Monroe County; (2) Pontotoc County; and (3) the Tombigbee River. Once the maps are completed, the teacher will tell the students that these locations are important to the multi-ethnic ecclesiastical communities that existed during the early statehood of Mississippi. The teacher will tell the students that they will learn about these communities today in class. The teacher can also show the students the pictures that accompany the Mississippi History NOW article (i.e., Monroe Mission, the grave of T. C. Stuart, and the Chickasaw territory) to further introduce the lesson. The teacher can also start with a question, such as whether the students think that whites, African Americans, and Native Americans worshipped together or separately before the Civil War. The teacher can then guide a class discussion on what the students think happened.

Developing the Lesson

1. The teacher will distribute to the students a copy of the Mississippi History NOW article, “Mission Churches and Multi-ethnicity on the Mississippi Frontier: T. C. Stuart and Presbyterian Missionary Activity among the Chickasaw, 1820-1837.” The article can be assigned as homework or class time can be allowed for reading the article. Students should be encouraged to annotate the article as they read.
2. Once the students have completed the reading, the teacher will lead a brief discussion about the article by answering student questions about their reading and any unfamiliar vocabulary found in the text. Next, the teacher will distribute to the students copies of the cause and effect chart, which is attached to the lesson plan. In lieu of handing out copies to the students, the teacher can have the students copy the chart into their notebooks.
3. The teacher will explain to the students that the main idea of the article is listed on the chart. The teacher will instruct the students to reread and/or skim the article to determine the causes and effects of the main idea. The students will cite examples of the causes and effects on their chart. Once the students have completed the charts, the teacher will lead a class discussion about the causes and effects of multi-ethnic ecclesiastical communities in central and northeast Mississippi.
4. For the next portion of the lesson, the students should be assigned a partner. The teacher will instruct the students to compose a brief cause and effect essay with their partner. The teacher may need to show examples of a cause and effect essay and/or use guided practice to assist the students in starting their essays. Examples of cause and effect essays can be easily found online.
5. For the next segment of the lesson, students will be assigned to groups of no more than three or four students. The students will be tasked with researching an aspect of the history of the Chickasaw and enslaved African Americans. Depending on the number of groups in the class, the teacher may want to assign each group a different aspect of the life and history of these two people groups. A few examples of topics to research are listed below:

  • Traditional religious practices of the Chickasaw;
  • Indian removal of the Chickasaw from Mississippi;
  • The Chickasaw today;
  • The practice of slavery in Mississippi;
  • Religious practices of African Americans during slavery; and
  • The road from slavery to freedom for African Americans.

6. The students will need access to research books and online resources in order to complete the research projects. The students can create a PowerPoint to present their research. A formal style should be used when creating the PowerPoint along with documentation of sources.
7. The students should come up with one creative way that they could encourage their communities today to work to bring together people of all ethnicities in reconciliation and unity.

Closing the Lesson

The students will present their research projects to the class and present their ideas for how to bring about reconciliation.

Assessing Student Learning

  • Class Discussion
  • Student participation
  • Cause and Effect Chart
  • Cause and effect essays
  • Research projects


  • The students can research further information about the life and work of T. C. Stuart.
  • The students can research the French, British, and Spanish influence on the history of the state of Mississippi.
  • The students can research the lives and work of the missionaries mentioned in the Mississippi History NOW article.
  • The students can research the religious groups that exist currently in the state and create a map and/or graph to show their locations and membership.
  • The students can discuss how this history might provide an example for multi-ethnic and diverse spaces in Mississippi moving forward.

Follow Up this Lesson with Other Mississippi History NOW articles:

Karla Smith is the Social Studies Department Chair at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jefferson Davis Campus.

Additional Lesson Plans on Mississippi History:

MDAH Education Lesson Plans and Teaching Units

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