The First Black Legislators in Mississippi Lesson Plan

Kari Baker

Students Will

  • Explore important Black legislators and events during the Reconstruction period.
  • Use prior knowledge of the Civil War and its outcomes.
  • Analyze the article’s terminology through discussion and individual research.
  • Synthesize information to answer the questions.


  • Mandatory: Computer/Tablet with internet access
  • Optional: Printed article, writing utensils

Curricular Connections

Mississippi College- and Career-Readiness Standards for the Social Studies

Mississippi Studies

  • MS.7 - Examine the economic, political and social changes in post Reconstruction Mississippi.

US History

  • Seventh Grade Compacted: 7C.15 Analyze the Reconstruction efforts in post-Civil War America.
  • Eighth Grade: 8.10 Analyze the Reconstruction efforts in post-Civil War America.

Teaching Levels

Grades 8-12

Before the Lesson

  1. Students will read “The First Black Legislators in Mississippi” and have a knowledge of the Civil War and its outcomes. Teacher may use preparation articles listed above if needed.


  1. The teacher will briefly discuss the Civil War and its outcomes, reminding students about the need for reconstruction of physical buildings, the state’s governmental structure, and relationships of the people that remained in Mississippi. 
  2. The teacher will review the vocabulary with the students clearing up any questions or misunderstandings of terminology. 
  3. Allow students to answer questions from the article. It is the teacher’s discretion to allow the students to work individually or in small groups and share out with the class. 


Legislature: an organized body having the authority to make laws.                   

Reconstruction: in U.S. history, the period (1865–77), that followed the American Civil War and attempted to redress the inequities of slavery and its political, social, and economic legacy and to solve the problems arising from the readmission to the Union of the 11 states that had seceded at or before the outbreak of war.                                                      

Freedmen: a person freed from slavery                                                                        

Provisional: serving for the time being: temporary                                                     

Carpetbagger: a Northerner in the South after the American Civil War usually seeking to profit from Reconstruction                                            

Enfranchise:  to admit to the privileges of a citizen and especially to the right of suffrage or to admit (a municipality) to political privileges or rights

Ratified: to approve and sanction formally: confirm

Enduring: lasting, durable

Coalition:  the act of coalescing: union

Mississippi Plan: The Plan, devised by the white-American Democratic Party, intended to overthrow the Republican Party by organized violence in order to redeem the state of Mississippi. Democrats in South Carolina and Louisiana also adopted the Mississippi Plan.

Lynching: to put to death, especially by hanging, by mob action and without legal authority

Acquaintance: a person one knows, but who is not a particularly close friend

Gallant: nobly chivalrous and often self-sacrificing

Docile: easily led or managed 

Notorious: widely and unfavorably known

Impeachment: to charge with a crime or misdemeanor
specifically: to charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office

Poll taxes:  Begun in the 1890s as a legal way to keep African Americans from voting in southern states, poll taxes were essentially a voting fee. Eligible voters were required to pay their poll tax before they could cast a ballot.

Literacy tests: Proponents of tests to prove an applicant’s ability to read and understand English claimed that the exams ensured an educated and informed electorate. In practice, they disqualified immigrants and the poor, who had less education. In the South, they prevented African Americans from registering to vote.

Lost Cause Narrative: A false narrative that denies slavery as the central cause of the Civil War, romanticizes the Confederacy, and supports white supremacy


  1. What led to the rise of Black legislators in the years of Reconstruction?
  2. The state legislature of Mississippi elected Hiram Revels to the United States Senate in 1870. Why is this considered such a milestone?
  3. What was the number one priority of the legislators writing the 1868 Constitution?
  4. What were some of the acts of violence that occurred in 1875 to cause black legislators to leave their offices and some even the South?
  5. What happened to unofficially end Reconstruction in Mississippi?
  6. What effects did the Constitution of 1890 have on both black and white men in Mississippi?

Possible Student Answers

  1. States were required to integrate freedmen as equal citizens under the Reconstruction Act of 1867.
  2. Revels was the first African American elected to the Senate nationally, from a state steeped in racial inequality.
  3. Education, more specifically a uniform system of free public schools.
  4. Dozens of African Americans were killed during the Clinton Riots and several state legislators were murdered without penalty.
  5. The Conservative Democrats had succeeded in garnering almost all of the legislative offices in the election of 1875. Black men held only 4 seats in the Senate and 24 seats in the House of Representatives.
  6. Black men were completely blocked and not allowed to participate in government, while wealthy land owning white men had all the rights and privileges they wanted. Poor white men regressed, with 42,000 losing the right or means to vote.