Mississippi: A Documentary History

By Bradley G. Bond | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
SUFFRAGE FOR SOME

White resentment of the Mississippi Constitution of 1868, the first to recognize black citizenship and to grant ex-slaves the right to vote, reached its apex in 1890 when the state legislature convened a constitutional convention. The most frequent objection to the constitution, one that had been heard since 1868, was that it had been written by “black Republicans.” For many years, politicians had stalled the convening of a constitutional convention, but by the late 1880s, it had become increasingly difficult to do so. Both agrarian and middle-class reformers had begun clamoring for a new constitution. Middleclass reformers wanted the new constitution to include restrictions on the sale of alcohol, amendments outlawing gambling and the lottery, an end to the leasing of state convicts, and the codification and extension of laws that encouraged industrial development. Farmers, on the other hand, sought a change in the apportionment of legislative seats and the appropriation of state funds to shift from favoring predominately African-American counties in the Delta to the eastern counties where more whites lived. Their argument was that blacks did not enjoy the benefits of public schools or representative democracy, so they should not be counted when determining apportionment or appropriations. Farmers also advocated the popular election of judges and the restriction of statewide elected officials to one term in office.

Although their objectives differed, white Mississippians agreed that the new state constitution must disfranchise black voters. Yet, they knew that the

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