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The History of Mississippi's State Flag

Overview

Nearly thirty years after the end of the Civil War, the 1894 Mississippi Legislature, acting on the recommendation of Governor John M. Stone, approved a state flag with three bars of blue, white, and red and a canton in the top left corner that contained the Confederate Battle Flag. As Confederate veterans aged and a second generation of white Mississippians matured, the memory of the Civil War and the Confederate cause merged to form a universal celebration of white sacrifice that ultimately erased the reason for Mississippi’s secession: the defense and continued protection of slavery. Over one hundred years since its approval, the 1894 design has persevered. During a 2001 statewide referendum, Mississippi voters were asked whether they supported the 1894 flag or a new design. More than sixty percent of voters approved the flag’s continuation. Today, Mississippi’s flag represents the last official state flag in the United States containing the Confederate Battle Flag. In light of escalating debates over the contemporary relevance of Confederate symbols and historical memory, the Mississippi state flag remains a controversial topic, in spite of its inauspicious beginnings.

Curricular Connections

Mississippi Studies Framework:

Competencies 1, 3, and 4

Teaching Level

Grades 9 through 12

Materials/Equipment

Objectives:

The students will:

  1. Summarize the main points and supporting details of a nonfiction article.
  2. Analyze how cultural, economic, political, and social factors play a role in historical events.

Opening the Lesson

The teacher will show the students a picture of the current Mississippi state flag. The teacher will ask for student volunteers to share with their classmates what they already know about the state flag. After the teacher brings the class discussion to a close, the teacher will tell the students that they will have an opportunity to learn more about the history of the Mississippi state flag.

Developing the Lesson

  1. The teacher will instruct the students to read the Mississippi History Now article, “The History of Mississippi’s State Flag.” Students will be encouraged to annotate the article as they read. Next, the students should reread the article to complete the Main Ideas Worksheet included with the lesson plan.
  2. Using a THINK-PAIR-SHARE format, students will clarify their understanding of the main points of the Mississippi History Now article with another classmate.
  3. Once the students complete the THINK-PAIR-SHARE activity, the teacher will lead a class discussion about the Mississippi History Now article by asking for student volunteers to share answers from their Main Ideas Worksheet. During the discussion, the teacher will record the student responses on the board to allow students to record additional information on their worksheet.
  4. The teacher will assign students to groups of no more than three to complete a critical thinking activity about the Mississippi History Now article. As a part of the activity, the student groups will use the Brainstorming Graphic Organizer included with the lesson plan. The teacher will instruct the students to consider cultural, economic, political, and social factors that may have played a role in the perception of the flag in 1894 and what factors may play a role in the perception of the flag today. The students should use the Mississippi History Now article as well as other resources to drawn conclusions about the perception of the Mississippi state flag during different periods of time and from different ethnic or economic circumstances. While students will conduct their research together as a group, each student should complete a separate chart.
  5. Once the students have completed their research, the teacher will instruct the students to individually compose an essay about their findings.

Closing the Lesson

The teacher will use the 3-2-1 learning strategy to close the lesson. The teacher will ask the students to write a response to the three questions listed below.

Based on this lesson about the Mississippi state flag:

  1. What are three things that you discovered?
  2. What are two things about the Mississippi state flag you found interesting?
  3. What is one question you still have about the topic?

The teacher will ask for student volunteers to share their answers to these questions.

Assessing Student Learning

  • Class participation
  • Main Ideas Worksheet
  • Brainstorming Activities Organizer
  • Article
  • Responses to questions

Enrichment

  • Take students on a field trip to the Museum of Mississippi History and/or the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.
  • The teacher can follow-up the lesson with other Mississippi History Now articles and lesson plans as suggested below.
  • The students can research current news stories and/or editorials concerning the debate over the Mississippi state flag design.
  • The students can research information concerning lynchings through the Equal Justice Initiative (https://eji.org/), specifically its report on Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror which is available online at: https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/.

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

Other related Mississippi History Now articles

Additional Lesson Plans on Mississippi History:

http://www.mdah.ms.gov/new/learn/classroom-materials/lesson-plans-and-teaching-units/
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