Farmers, the Populist Party, and Mississippi (1870-1900) Lesson Plan

Karla Smith


As a whole, American society experienced economic prosperity due to the enormous industrialization in 19th-century America. Even though the United States thrived economically at this time, segments of society failed to benefit from the country’s industrial and financial transformation. American farmers experienced great difficulty in making the transition to a more urban and industrialized society. Out of this difficulty grew political organizations that addressed the grievances and concerns of the American farmer.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.


Grades 7 through 12.


  • Mississippi History Now article
  • Whiteboard and marker
  • Projector
  • Internet access and computer
  • Notebooks
  • Various reference books
  • Unlined paper
  • Colored pencils and markers
  • Glue and scissors
  • Construction paper


Students will:

  • determine the cause and effect of a historical event.
  • draw conclusions about statistical data and maps.
  • compose a campaign speech for a Populist candidate.
  • design a political poster and badge for the Populist Party.


Ask the students to ponder the following questions and solicit for student responses to the questions:

  1. What technological devices have been developed within the last decade?
  2. Have these new technological devices made your life more convenient? If yes, explain.
  3. Have these new devices had an impact on the American job market? 

Explain to the class that they will analyze another period in American history where advanced technology tremendously affected American society.


  • Place the chart below on the board or projector. Ask the students to copy the chart into their notebooks. Allow students to work independently or with a partner to complete the chart by using the Mississippi History Now article. Students should only complete a cause column or an effect column for each statement.
  • Ask for student volunteers to share their answers with the class. The teacher can record the student responses on the chart.
Cause   Effect
  During the 1800s, the amount of land farmed increased.  
  Agricultural colleges were established.  
  Farmers supported candidates at the state and national level.  
  Third parties were not organized throughout the South.  
  The Populist Party was established.  


  • Instruct the students to research the presidential election of 1892. It was in this election that the Populist Party nominated James B. Weaver for president and James G. Field for vice president. Have the students locate the electoral results for the presidential candidates in the 1892 election. Have the students color-code the states on a hand-drawn U.S. map or a duplicated map according to which candidate won the electoral votes for each of the states and/or territories. Have the students create a key for the electoral votes. It may be necessary to explain the Electoral College and the election process if students are unfamiliar with this process. Students can work independently or with a partner on this portion of the assignment. Allow the students to use various resources, including the Internet, to locate the election results for this election. The teacher may also choose to provide the results for the students.
  • Have the students write four conclusions about the electoral results of the presidential election of 1892. Ask for student volunteers to share their conclusions with the class. Example: Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland won the southern states out of voter fear that a third party would endanger White supremacy.
  • Place the students into groups of no more than three or four. Tell the students that they are members of the Populist Party. It is their job to write a campaign speech for their candidate as well as design a campaign poster and button. Have the students use the Mississippi History Now article as well as other resources to design their campaign materials. The students can also use the Omaha platform of 1892, which listed the grievances and goals of the American farmers, to create their campaign materials.
  • Each group should choose one member to read their campaign speech. The students can present their speeches in a political rally format where remaining members of the group can display their posters and campaign badges. With all the candidates representing the Populist Party, this would be a great opportunity to explain the primary process to students.


Ask each student to compose a response to the following question:

How will continued technological advancement impact the American economy and job market? (Students should anticipate the development of technological devices and how they will affect American society).


  1. Class participation
  2. Chart
  3. Map and conclusions
  4. Campaign speeches, posters and badges
  5. Paragraphs


  1. Design political cartoons about the presidential election of 1892 and the Populist Party.
  2. Research leaders of the Populist Party.
  3. Invite local and/or state elected officials to speak to your class about the importance of the political process and voting.