JULY 23, 1890

Credit: Mississippi Department of Archives and History

A half-dozen white men assassinated F.M.B. “Marsh” Cook after he criticized the pending Constitutional Convention for its plot to “restore” white supremacy and strip Black Mississippians of the right to vote. He had announced that he would run as a white Republican candidate for that convention and had urged Black voters to unite against this evil plot when he was gunned down. 

The Cleveland Gazette hoped his killing would cause the federal government to intervene, but that never happened. The convention continued, and no one was ever tried for his killing. The new constitution and new laws did exactly what Cook had claimed — removed Black Mississippians from voting rolls and then kept them from regaining the right to vote through poll taxes and constitutional tests. 

Other Southern states soon followed Mississippi’s lead, plunging the South into a legacy of disenfranchisement and discrimination. The measures proved so successful in barring African Americans that when the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, less than 7% of Black Mississippians were allowed to vote.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.