Mississippi National History Day Topic Ideas

The 2017 National History Day theme is Taking a Stand in History. Below are suggestions of people, organizations, and themes for projects based on Mississippi history. The examples highlighted in orange are highly recommended. Note that these are just a few suggestions. We welcome your ideas of additional topics and resources.


People

African American elected officials
Major African American office holders during and after Reconstruction.

Civil Rights Movement veterans
Civil Rights veterans from Mississippi. See national list of veterans at CRMvet.org, search for those in Mississippi.

The Trail of Tears
The forced removal of American Indians from Mississippi in the early 1800’s.

1927 Flood
The 1927 flood was a pivotal event in the history of Mississippi and the country. Read the article The Flood of 1927 and Its Impact in Greenville, Mississippi at Mississippi History Now. Additional resources are the book Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America and the films Fatal Flood and The Great Flood.

Self-Defense
This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed provides many examples of armed self defense in Mississippi.

Key People and Places inAfrican American History
See list on BlackPast for people, places, and groups in Mississippi.

Pullman Porters and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
The Brothers of Sleeping Car Porters was, in 1925, the first labor organization led by blacks to receive a charter in the American Federation of Labor (AFL). There has been a lot written about the Pullman Porters nationally. But what is the story of the Pullman Porters work and union organizing in Mississippi? One place to begin your research is the Pullman Porter Museum.

Railroad workers
Mississippi has a long history with railroads in conjunction with the lumber industry. There are many individuals and groups that contributed to this history. From Simeon Webb to the Mississippi Central Railroad, a NHD topic on railroads would provide many primary sources in the immediate area.

War resistance in Mississippi (WWI, WWII, Vietnam)
Were 1,200 African-American troops killed at Camp van Dorn in 1943? The Slaughter: An American Atrocity focuses on the events at Camp van Dorn, Mississippi. The documentary Mystery of the 364th also sheds light on the event.

White allies in Civil Rights Movement
When the Heffners, a white family in McComb, hosted civil rights workers at their home the white residents ran the family out of town. This event was chronicled in the book So the Heffners Left McComb by Hodding Carter.

Women in social movements
Civil Rights, labor, women’s suffrage, anti-war, etc.


Organizations and Projects

Churches role in social movements

Civil Rights organizations
COFO, SNCC, SCLC, NAACP, CORE

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Freedom Schools
Curriculum at Education and Democracy website. Books and articles about Freedom Schools.

Free Southern Theater
SNCC members John O’Neal and Doris Derby join actor/journalist Gilbert Moses and thespians at Tougaloo College formed the Drama Workshop, which grew into the Free Southern Theater (FST). Racially integrated and dedicated to social change, the FST took live theater to poor, rural, mostly Black audiences across Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Historically Black Colleges role in social movements
Alcorn State University, Coahoma Community College, Hinds Community College at Utica, Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley, Rust College, Tougaloo College

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
In early 1964, as part of Freedom Summer, Mississippi civil rights activists affiliated with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in Mississippi launched the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). Claiming status as ‘‘the only democratically constituted body of Mississippi citizens,’’ they appealed to the credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) of 1964 to recognize their party’s delegation in place of the all-white Democratic Party delegation from Mississippi (Victoria Gray, July 1964). 

NAACP – Mississippi
The Mississippi State Conference was on the forefront of all the major battles of the civil rights movement in Mississippi during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s through and collaborating with other civil rights organizations to organize demonstrations, protests, selective buying campaigns, sit-ins, marches and legal action, all aimed at securing equal rights under the law for ALL citizens of the state. 

State Sovereignty Commission
The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission functioned as the state’s official counter civil rights agency from 1956-1973. Learn about history and see files online at MDAH.

Southern Tenant Farmers Union
The Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU) was founded in Tyronza, Arkansas in July 1934 by black and white tenant farmers and Socialist Party members.  The STFU is part of a rich tradition of labor organizing in the Depression-era South amongst mostly Black agricultural laborers.

White Citizens’ Councils
In response to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision ending school segregation, white segregationists throughout the South created the White Citizens’ Councils (WCC). These local groups typically drew a more middle and upper class membership than the Ku Klux Klan and, in addition to using violence and intimidation to counter civil rights goals, they sought to economically and socially oppress blacks. 

Youth Councils-NAACP
The NAACP Youth Councils in Mississippi laid the groundwork for the success of the more visible Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Sample questions and more info.


Themes

Education
This includes Rosenwald schools (film and database), desegregation, critique of textbooks, freedom schools, book clubs, and more.

Environmental Justice
Coalition of Communities for Environmental Justice, Center for Environmental and Economic JusticeBridge the Gulf Project

International connections to local movements
For example, Fannie Lou Hamer’s visit to Guinea in 1964; SNCC’s 1966 Statement against the Vietnam War; and the relationship between SNCC and African independence movements, described in this scholarly article.

Media – African American Press

Music and Art in Social Movements

Native American sovereignty
The official website of the Mississippi Choctaw Indian Tribe. Get a detailed history of the Choctaw (including the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw). Also, Native American Nations MS Choctaw.

Reconstruction

Sports
The NCAA matchup between Loyola University of Chicago and Mississippi State in 1963 helped put an end to segregated basketball. Loyola’s win 50 years ago became known as the “game of change.”

Voting Rights Struggles
See key stories and individuals from 1963. See key individuals from the Mississippi Delta and southwest Mississippi.