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Tue, 11.02.1875

The Mississippi Plan Enacted

"Of course he will vote democratic"Harpers 10/21/1876

*On this date in 1875, The Mississippi Plan went into effect. Their state government was trying to prevent Black political participation using this Strategy.

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

Following the end of the American Civil War, Blacks found themselves emancipated from the bonds of slavery, and, with the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1870, were allowed to vote. The consequences of this were far-reaching and almost immediate.  Blacks flooded the polls, and in Mississippi's 1874 election the Republican Party carried a 30,000 majority in what had been a pre-Civil War year, a Democrat stronghold.

In 1875, under the Mississippi Plan of Southern Democrats, a political dual-pronged battle to reverse the otherwise dominant Republican trend was waged. The first step was to "persuade" the 10 to 15 percent of white voters still calling themselves Republicans to switch to the Democratic party.  A combined fear of social, political, and economic ostracism convinced carpetbaggers to switch parties or flee the state.

The second step of the Mississippi Plan was intimidation of the Black populace who had so recently been granted their voting rights. While economic coercion against Black sharecroppers was employed to some limited success, it was violence that played the largest part in intimidation. Groups of Democrats, called "rifle clubs," frequently provoked riots at Republican rallies, shooting down dozens of blacks in the ensuing conflict.

Despite the Republican victory and the election of Blacks to many offices including ten of thirty-six seats in the state legislature, the tragic precedent for the Mississippi Plan had already been set in the city of Vicksburg. There, the White Man's party sent armed patrols to prevent blacks from voting and succeeded in defeating all-Republican city officials in August. By December the emboldened party forced the Black sheriff to flee to the state capitol. Blacks who rallied to the city to aid the sheriff also had to flee against a superior force. Over the next few days, armed gangs may have murdered up to 300 Blacks in the city's vicinity. President Ulysses S. Grant sent a company of troops to the city in January to quell the violence and allow the sheriff's safe return.

Although there was a call for federal troops to curb the violence, this time it went unanswered by President Grant, for fear that, in doing so, he would be accused of "bayonet rule" which he believed would undoubtedly be exploited by Democrats to carry Ohio in that year's state elections.  Ultimately, the violence went unchecked and the plan worked just as it had been intended: During Mississippi's 1875 election, five counties with large Black majorities polled 12, 7, 4, 2, and 0 votes, respectively. Indeed, what had been a Republican victory of 30,000 votes in 1874 became a Democrat majority of 30,000 in 1875.

Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue S.E.
Washington D.C. 20540


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