Student Protest at Delta State College in March 1969

Kari Baker

Students Will

  • Explore important information about the event that took place at Delta State College in 1969.
  • Use prior knowledge on the Civil Rights Movement, integration in Mississippi, and the struggle for equality of African Americans.
  • Analyze the article’s terminology through discussion and individual research.
  • Synthesize information to answer questions from both the text and the photographs included in the article.


  • Mandatory: Computer/Tablet with internet access Optional: Printed article, writing utensils

Curricular Connections

Mississippi College- and Career-Readiness Standards for the Social Studies

Mississippi Studies

  • MS.8 Evaluate the role of Mississippi in the Civil Rights Movement.

US History: 1877 to Present

  • US.11 Civil Rights Movement: Evaluate the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on social and political change in the United States.

Problems in American Democracy

  • PAD.8 Examine how and under what circumstances state governments and the federal government have expanded or constrained the civil and political rights of African Americans and other groups since the Civil War.

African American Studies

  • AAS.8 Analyze the success and failures of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Minority Studies

  • MIN.2 Trace the group dynamics that play a role in the marginalization of minority groups.
  • MIN.6 Examine the major events, methods, and leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
  • MIN.8 Examine contemporary issues related to the treatment of minority groups.

Teaching Levels

Grades 8-12

Before the Lesson

  1. Students should read “Delta State Sit-in” and have a knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement. The students will need to understand the vocabulary included here.




Integration: incorporation as equals into society or an organization of individuals of different groups; countering racial segregation

Segregation: the separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means

Discrimination: prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment

Equitable: having or exhibiting equity; dealing fairly and equally with all concerned 

Derogatory: expressive of a low opinion; disparaging

Unconstitutional: something that is in direct disagreement with the U.S. Constitution and its principles

Agitator: one who stirs up public feeling on controversial issues

In Sync: in a state in which two or more people or things move or happen together at the same time and speed 

Liaison: a person who establishes and maintains communication for mutual understanding and cooperation

White Supremacy: the belief that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races

Sit-In: an act of sitting in the seats or on the floor of an establishment as a means of organized protest 

Oral History: a recording containing information about the past obtained from in-depth interviews concerning personal experiences, recollections, and reflections

  1. The teacher will discuss the events that led to the Civil Rights Movement and the participation of Mississippi’s youth all over the state. (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, death of Emmett Till, James Meredith’s integration of Ole Miss, and the read-in of the Tougaloo Nine)
  2. The teacher will review the vocabulary with the students clearing up any questions or misunderstandings of terminology. 
  3. It is at the teacher’s discretion to have the students read the article previously or as a class. It is also at the teacher’s discretion to have the students work cooperatively in groups or individually.
  4. The teacher will use the answered questions as classroom discussion starters. (This works well in a classroom where students understand the depth and emotion of the issues in the article.)


  1. What are some examples of resistance to integration, both from the article and others you have previously heard about?
  2. Why was Donald Sutton seen as the “lead agitator” of this event?
  3. What did those involved in the sit-in realize once they were taken from Parchman to the Bolivar County Courthouse?
  4. Who was the first Black student to attend Delta State College?
  5. What events led up to the sit-in?
  6. What was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” according to Maggie Crawford?    
  7. List some of the demands the Black Student Organization presented to the college.
  8. How did those African Americans who attended Delta State College foster a community of belonging for themselves?
  9. What did Malcom X and the Watts rebellion have to do with the Delta State sit-in?
  10. Where were the students taken once they were arrested? Why was this surprising? 
  11. Why do the sit-ins matter today?


  1. Arkansas governor blocking the integration of Central High School, Mississippi governor blocking James Meredith from enrolling in Ole Miss, Alabama governor blocking the admission of two African American students to the University of Alabama, and any other of the many instances of groups and governments blocking proper integration are acceptable.
  2. Donald Sutton was the liaison between the college students and known members on the Civil Rights Movement in the Delta area.
  3. The students realized the Black community was there to support them in their efforts.
  4. Shirley Washington was the first Black student to integrate Delta State College.
  5. The Black Student Organization was tired of the president of Delta State College ignoring their demands. They had marched so many times before that they decided they would sit at his office until he spoke to them.
  6. According to Maggie Crawford, the straw that broke the camel’s back was a fight in the cafeteria. A student named James Kennedy was struck and had a seizure and never recovered.
  7. The Black Student Organization demanded equal representation in student organizations, addition of African American courses, and hiring of African American teachers.
  8. Black students took care of one another by walking places together and keeping a protective eye out for each other. This helped create a safer feeling among the African American students.
  9. The assassination of Malcom X mobilized students into action all over the country. They were tired of the mistreatment and empowered by other Black students across the country to stand up.
  10. The students were taken to Parchman. This was surprising because it is a maximum-security state facility reserved for serious criminals.
  11. This open-ended question will differ from student to student.