Date of Award


Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

History BA


English; History

First Advisor

Susannah Ural, Ph.D.

Advisor Department



This thesis argues that Mississippi’s state militia after the American Civil War developed into a functional arm of the state to supplant extralegal paramilitary groups. However, that militia transformed between 1865 and 1890 from an organization devoted to protecting African-American political and civil rights into a mechanism for the enforcement of white supremacy. Mississippi’s Constitution of 1868 made the governor Commander-in-Chief of the state militia and designated that one of the militia’s responsibilities was “to suppress riots and insurrections.” While the law provided other reasons for using the militia, this thesis argues that Mississippi’s governors only used the militia to put down alleged riots and insurrections, while contemporary newspapers used the terms “riot” and “insurrection” to associate criminality with African-American political activism. This thesis also narrates the life of an African-American man named Oliver Cromwell and his presence at two representative “race riots” in the Clinton Riot of 1875 and the Leflore County Massacre of 1889 to highlight how the militia impacted individual citizens. Ultimately, this work concludes that the transformation of Mississippi’s state militia between 1865 and 1890 reveals how civilian access to the militia’s ranks and how the governor chose to deploy that militia impactfully reduced African-American rights in late-nineteenth century Mississippi and contributed to the disenfranchisement found in the state’s Constitution of 1890.

Included in

History Commons