Nov. 2, 1875

Pictured here are U.S. Sen. Hiram Revels of Mississippi, left, with six Black members of the U.S. House, Ben J.S. Turner of Alabama, Josiah T. Walls of Florida, Jefferson H. Long of Georgia, and Robert C. De Large, Joseph H. Rainy and R. Brown Elliot, all of South Carolina. Credit: Library of Congress

The first Mississippi Plan, which included violence against Black Americans to keep them from voting, resulted in huge victories for white Democrats across the state. 

A year earlier, the Republican Party had carried a majority of the votes, and many Black Mississippians had been elected to office. In the wake of those victories, white leagues arose to challenge Republican rule and began to use widespread violence and fraud to recapture control of the state. 

Over several days in September 1875, about 50 Black Mississippians were killed along with white supporters, including a school teacher who worked with the Black community in Clinton. 

The governor asked President Ulysses Grant to intervene, but he decided against intervening, and the violence and fraud continued. Other Southern states soon copied the Mississippi plan. 

John R. Lynch, the last Black congressman for Mississippi until the 1986 election of Mike Espy, wrote: “It was a well-known fact that in 1875 nearly every Democratic club in the State was converted into an armed military company.” 

A federal grand jury concluded: “Fraud, intimidation, and violence perpetrated at the last election is without a parallel in the annals of history.”

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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.