This Day in History

Jan. 7, 1868: Mississippi Constitutional Convention

Time Periods: 1865, 1900
Themes: Reconstruction, Democracy & Citizenship, Laws & Citizen Rights
The First Vote | Zinn Education Project

An 1867 drawing in Harper’s Weekly lauds the Union victory by showing freedmen and U.S. Colored Troops veterans exercising their newly bestowed right to vote.

On Jan. 7, 1868, the Mississippi Constitutional Convention was held in Jackson, with 16 Black and 78 white politicians. The Mississippi Constitution was one of the first pieces of legislation that provided a uniform system of free public education for children regardless of race.

According to University of Southern Mississippi history professor (emeritus) John Ray Skates, some of the revolutionary provisions of the 1868 Constitution were:

  • Voting rights for Black males, as required by Congress.
  • Framework for comprehensive system of public schools for the state.
  • Protection of property rights for married women.
  • Governor’s term extended from two to four years.
  • Judges above the rank of justice of the peace appointed by governor.
  • Future apportionment of the legislature to be based on qualified voters.

In Black Power U.S.A, author Lerone Bennett Jr. calls 1868 “The Glory Year”:

In the North, in this year, there was wild talk of using troops to forcibly dissolve Congress and arrest its leaders; and in the South thousands on thousands of angry Black people thronged the dusty roads, shouting defiance and demanding a division of the loaves and fishes.

This was the year of the 14th Amendment; this was the year men made the Declaration of Independence walk in the streets; this was the year almost all things were made new . . .  During the whole of this pivotal year, the South vibrated with the impassioned sounds of extraordinary assemblages of Blacks, native whites, and Northern newcomers.

Read more about why 1868 is one of the most significant years of the Reconstruction era in The Other ’68: Black Power During Reconstruction by Adam Sanchez.

Arkansas also held a constitutional convention on this day, as described in The Constitution of 1868.

Learn more in the Zinn Education Project national report, “Erasing the Black Freedom Struggle: How State Standards Fail to Teach the Truth About Reconstruction,” and find teaching resources on Reconstruction below.