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Religion in Mississippi lesson plan

OVERVIEW

Religion and politics are topics often hotly debated by Mississippians and just as often, deliberately avoided in conversation. This lesson will explore the story of religious groups in the state, beginning with the French and Spanish periods and concluding with the current perception of Mississippi as part of a regional “Bible Belt.” Students will be encouraged to examine relationships between religious beliefs through the years and prevailing societal realities.

CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1 and 3.

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12.

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT

Mississippi History Now article, “Religion in Mississippi”

Butcher Paper and Markers

OBJECTIVES

Students will:

identify terms associated with Mississippi’s religious history;

construct a brief chronology of the periods of Mississippi’s history;

determine the dominant religions of each historical period;

describe how the dominant religious beliefs impacted major events of each period;

recognize other religious groups of importance in the state.

OPENING THE LESSON

Teacher should write these quotes on the board or on a transparency for students to read.

 

“... not more than one person in twenty was a church member.” (1817, statehood)

 

“... it is estimated that probably one white adult ... out of three belonged to some church.” (antebellum period)

 

“... three-fourths of ... church members belonged to the Methodist and Baptist denominations...” (eve of Civil War)

Ask students to speculate on what part of the country is being described and to share their thoughts. After they have responded, tell them that the statements describe the area of Mississippi. Now, ask them to “guess” WHEN the statements were descriptive of the population. Suggest that, although many Mississippians are churchgoers, perhaps we all have some things we could learn about the state’s religious history. ( Quotes taken from McLemore’s A History of Mississippi, Vol. One, pp. 378- 379.)

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1.

On the board or a transparency, write these terms: CATHOLIC; PROTESTANT; EVANGELICALS; EVANGELICALISM; GREAT REVIVAL; FUNDAMENTALISTS; NON-EVANGELICALS.

2.

Have students construct a chart with two headings. The first heading will be: WHAT DO I KNOW (OR THINK I KNOW) ABOUT ???? In the left margin, have students write the terms to be described. Give them time to think about their answers and to write them in the chart.

3.

Assign the students to small groups to share and compare their responses. Lead a large-group discussion to provide clarification and to enable students to complete the chart’s second heading: WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT ???? For additional reinforcement, you may wish to assign students to design a crossword puzzle using the terms as answers.

4.

Have students copy the following brief chronology of major periods in Mississippi’s history. (The titles of each period are mine and the dates are approximate.) Ask them to leave several spaces in their notes after each time period.

1600s - 1780s

COLONIAL PERIOD

1790s - 1820s

TERRITORIAL/EARLY STATEHOOD

1830s - 1860s

ANTEBELLUM/WAR

1870s - 1900

POST- CIVIL WAR

1900 - 1940

EARLY 20TH CENTURY

1940 - 2000s

MODERN

Briefly “walk” them through each period, suggesting that they add a few descriptive events to their notes.

5.

Ask them to read the article, “Religion in Mississippi” to determine the major religious influences in each of these historical periods and to add that information to their notes. Monitor as they work to check for accuracy. Ask if they can see any patterns developing.

6.

Students will now be divided into five groups to research each historical period (except the COLONIAL PERIOD). Begin with a discussion of the COLONIAL PERIOD as an example. Have students make a web or bubble chart to illustrate the religious influences of this period. Now, tell students that “freedom of religion” in Mississippi led to the development and growth of several religious groups which came to have an influence on the history of the state.

7.

Assign each group one of the remaining historical periods to research. Have them carefully re-read the article to answer these questions as thoroughly as possible.

a.

What was (were) the major religious group(s)?

b.

What were the basic religious beliefs and styles of worship?

c.

What kind of followers were attracted to it and why?

d.

What major events in the life of the religious group occurred during this period?

e.

How did the religious group influence the prevailing beliefs of society and how did society influence the beliefs of the group?

8.

Have the students post their information in a creative way for all class members to view. A representative of each group should tell the class of their findings, and the teacher will lead a follow-up discussion for clarification and accuracy. As each time period is described, students should add information to their chronology page.

9.

To help students learn about non-evangelical religious groups in Mississippi, ask them to construct a web or jelly-fish graphic describing CATHOLICS, JEWS, MUSLIMS, and MORMONS. You may wish to add additional material about each of these groups to assist them with their descriptions.

CLOSING THE LESSON

Using their completed chronology page and webs, students will write an essay describing Mississippi’s “religious” history.

Have students “partner” and share things they learned about religion in Mississippi that surprised them.

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1.

Completion of chart and chronology page

2.

Small and large group participation

3.

Web

4.

Essay


EXTENDING THE LESSON

1.

Students will enjoy watching these videos available through the Mississippi History on Loan program:

a.

“Gathering at the River: Methodist Campgrounds of South Mississippi”

b.

“Black Delta Religion”

2.

Visits to the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in Utica, Mississippi and the Old Order German Baptist communities of Covington County would be instructive.

3.

Ask students to research the various religious groups in their communities and make a list.

4.

Some students may wish to conduct further research into leaders or other aspects of a particular religion, i.e. the Methodist circuit riders.

5.

Students may wish to conduct oral history interviews with members of a particular religious group in their community. They could then write a history of the group, using the interviews and available church records.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

1.

McLemore, Richard Aubrey, ed., A History of Mississippi, Volume One, University and College Press of Mississippi, 1973. (Chapter 14 is entitled “Religious and Cultural Life, 1817-1860.”)

2.

Mouler, Bob and McIntire, Carl, Shrines to Tomorrow, 1971, a photographic study of more than 100 historical churches in Mississippi.

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