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The Citizens' Council

Teaching Levels:

Grades 7 through 12

Proposed Time Frame:

90 minutes with students reading the article prior to the lesson

Resources Needed:

  • Mississippi History Now article, “The Citizens’ Council” by Dr. Stephanie Rolph (assign to be read prior to the lesson)
  • Group Discussion Questions
  • Excerpt of one of the Forum broadcasts available from the Mississippi State University’s Special Collections division available online at https://cdm16631.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16631coll22/search.
  • Printer/poster/butcher paper and markers or computer
  • Lesson Introduction

    1. Assign the article for students to read prior to class for homework.
    2. At the beginning of class, informally assess students’ prior knowledge of the Ku Klux Klan, MS Black Codes, & Jim Crow by asking probing questions.
    3. Explain to students how the Citizen’s Council correlates to the groups and concepts mentioned.
    4. Write/project on the board/screen the Citizens’ Council slogan, “States’ Rights, Racial Integrity.” Tell them to keep the slogan in mind while answering the Group Discussion Questions about the Citizens’ Council article read for homework.

    Class Discussion

    1. Divide class into groups to answer the Group Discussion Questions. Give them time to answer and discuss the questions within their group.
    2. When groups have completed the questions, facilitate a class discussion referring back to the Citizens’ Council slogan.
      • Ask each group to answer the following question: “After reading the article & answering the discussion questions, what does the slogan “States’ Rights, Racial Integrity” mean to you?”
      • Discuss the various group responses.

    Group Discussion Questions

    1. What event triggered the creation of the Citizens’ Council? Why?
    2. What class of people were encouraged to join?
    3. What made the Citizens’ Council different than the Ku Klux Klan?
    4. What did the Citizens’ Council do to sabotage the Civil Rights Movement?
    5. Why were these methods successful?
    6. Governor Hugh White wanted to put more money into black schools. Why did both sides reject this?
    7. What was the school closure amendment and why did the Citizens’ Council deem it necessary?
    8. In what ways did black activism decrease?
    9. What do you think the Citizens’ Council slogan “States’ Rights, Racial Integrity” means?
    10. How were they able to spread their message throughout the United States?
    11. How were they successful in gathering support outside the South?
    12. What was the Citizens’ Council’s role in the establishment of private schools in the South?

    Activity

    1. After the discussion, play an excerpt of one of the Forum broadcasts available from the Mississippi State University’s Special Collections division available online at https://cdm16631.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16631coll22/search.
      • Suggested excerpts: “Civil Rights Act of 1963,” “Biology of the Race Problem,” and “August 28 March on Washington” are a few good ones. You can also download broadcast transcripts to determine what is appropriate for your subject and age group.
    2. Based on what was heard from the chosen broadcast, ask students what they believe the Citizens’ Council was trying to convey to the general public about African Americans.
    3. In their groups, have students organize a protest that will take place outside the Citizens’ Council headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi.
    4. Groups will create a slogan for their protest.
    5. Students will then create protest posters utilizing the group’s slogan.
      • It may be helpful for the teacher to show sample slogans and posters used in various historical protests (Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Rights Movement, etc.) to give students more focus for their posters.
      • Posters should include visuals, the slogan, & other eye-catching items.
      • Posters may be created on paper or can be done on the computer.
    6. Groups will then share with the rest of the class explaining their slogan and posters.

Closure

Have students reflect on what they’ve learned about the Citizens’ Council by asking them why they think well-educated people would believe the ideas put out by the Council and then actively work to sabotage the Civil Rights Movement. This may be done as an exit ticket activity or by getting various student responses.

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