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Minnie Geddings Cox and the Indianola Affair, 1902-1904

Overview

In January 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to accept the resignation of Minnie Geddings Cox, postmistress for the city of Indianola and Mississippi’s first African American postmistress. Roosevelt subsequently closed Indianola’s post office, and it remained closed for more than a year. The newspapers called the incident the “Indianola Affair.” Raised by business owner parents and educated at one of the premier schools for aspiring African American women, Cox sought opportunities beyond the traditional expectations for women of the time. In 1891, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Cox to the position of postmistress for Holmes County, making her the first African American postmistress in Mississippi, and in 1897, newly-elected President William McKinley appointed Cox as postmistress of Sunflower County. The college educations, land and property holdings, civil servant positions, and comfortable salaries of Minnie and her husband, Wayne Wellington Cox, placed them firmly near the top of the social and economic hierarchy in the region. Around 1902, however, whites in the Mississippi Delta, agitated by the combination of an economic depression, a power grab by the southern wing of the Republican Party, and an aggressive political contest for governor, channeled their anxieties onto African Americans, and Cox found herself in the crosshairs of this conflict.

Curricular Connections

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 4, and 5

Teaching Level

Grades 9-12

Materials/Equipment

  • Mississippi History Now article, “Minnie Geddings Cox and the Indianola Affair, 1902-1904”
  • Board
  • Data projector
  • Computer and internet access
  • Paper
  • Pen/pencil
  • Paper
  • Graphic Organizer

Objectives

The students will:

  1. Identify examples of the factors that played a role in the Indianola Affair.
  2. Write a summary of a nonfiction article.
  3. Examine personal thoughts about an historical event.

Opening the Lesson

The teacher will ask for student volunteers to share answers to the following questions:

  1. What was life like in the Mississippi during the late 1800s-early 1900s?
  2. What type of issues were prevalent in society during this period? The teacher will tell the students that they will have an opportunity to study social, political, and economic issues that impacted the state through the life story of Minnie Geddings Cox who lived in Indianola, Mississippi. During the opening of the lesson, the teacher can use the pictures included with the lesson plan as a part of the class discussion.

Developing the Lesson

  1. The teacher will instruct the students to read the Mississippi History Now article, “Minnie Geddings Cox and the Indianola Affair, 1902-1904.”
  2. After their initial reading, the teacher will instruct students to reread the article. During the second reading of the article, the teacher will instruct the students to record information on the Graphic Organizer provided with this lesson plan. The students can work alone or with a partner as they reread and record information during this segment of the lesson.
  3. Once the students complete their graphic organizer, the teacher will instruct each student to use their Graphic Organizer to write a summary of the article.
  4. Next, the teacher will conduct a class discussion about the article. During the class discussion, the teacher will ask for student volunteers to share information from their Graphic Organizer and article summary.
  5. After the class discussion, the teacher will ask the students to write a reaction paper about their personal thoughts/reaction to what they learned about the Indianola Affair.

Closing the Lesson

The teacher will ask the students to respond to the following questions:

  1. Why is it important to study the Indianola Affair?
  2. Do you see any similarities or connections between the Indianola Affair and other historical events that you have studied?

Assessing the Lesson

  • Class participation
  • Graphic organizer
  • Summary
  • Reaction paper

Extending the Lesson

  • Students can research the political careers of Mississippi governors and U. S. presidents mentioned in the Mississippi History Now article, “Minnie Geddings Cox and the Indianola Affair, 1902-1904.”
  • Students can research other events in state and national history during 1902 to 1904.
  • The teacher can follow-up this lesson with other Mississippi History Now articles about race and/or civil rights in Mississippi history.
Karla Smith is the Social Studies Department Chair at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jefferson Davis Campus.

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