Sept. 5, 1864

The First Vote drawn by A.R. Waud. Published in Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 16, 1867. Credit: Library of Congress

Louisiana became the first state to incorporate President Abraham Lincoln’s conciliatory approach and was the leading test case for postwar policy when pro-Union voters ratified Louisiana’s new state Constitution, which abolished slavery and authorized the Legislature to extend voting rights to Black men and have free public schools for all children. 

The Legislature, however, had other ideas, failing to extend voting rights. As for free public schools, they were for whites only. That Constitution only applied to the 13 parishes under Union control during the Civil War.

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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.