The Clinton Riot of 1875: From Riot to Massacre Lesson Plan

Drew Gardner

Students Will

  • Identify the Clinton Massacre of 1875 within the racial violence occurring nationally during Reconstruction
  • Analyze the conflicting narratives surrounding the Clinton Massacre of 1875
  • Cite evidence to create an objective report regarding the events of the Clinton Massacre of 1875


  • Computer/tablet with internet access
  • Paper and writing utensils
  • Newspaper Template

Curricular Connections

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

8th Grade: US History: Exploration to 1877 

  • 8.10.4 - Examine the Southern resistance to Reconstruction reforms, including: Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, Ku Klux Klan, etc. 

Mississippi Studies 

  • MS.6.4 - Trace the various attempts at reconstruction in Mississippi and the responses to them. 
  • MS.7.1 - Evaluate the impact of Reconstruction on Mississippi’s social structure. 

Teaching Levels

Grades 7 through 12

Before the Lesson

  1. Students will individually read "The Clinton Riot of 1875: From Riot to Massacre" article.


Optional Bellringer Questions

  1. Students will watch "Equal Justice Initiative: Reconstruction in America" and reflect on the racial violence across America during Reconstruction. 
  2. Possible discussion question: What purpose did racial violence serve during Reconstruction? Who benefitted from racial violence?


  1. The teacher will explain history is a story of the past, and accounts differ depending on one’s perspective. Evidence crafts each tale, but each piece of evidence must be examined, questioned, and critiqued. One piece of evidence is not enough to create an accurate story of the past. Primary source documents are important pieces of evidence to understand past people, places, and events. The Weekly Clarion newspaper from September 29, 1875, will be used to compare and contrast narratives about the Clinton Massacre.  
  2. Students will be placed in small groups (3-4) to compare The Weekly Clarion newspaper from September 29, 1875, with the article "The Clinton Riot of 1875: From Riot to Massacre."  
  3. Student groups will then cite evidence to create a news article (150 words) or newscast (3 minutes) that objectively covers the deadly event. Note: newspaper template included above if needed.  
    • Students are encouraged to address and/or question why conflicting narratives may exist about the event and use the discussion questions listed below to guide their writing or production. 
  4. Students will present their articles and newscasts and the teacher will use the discussion questions listed below to guide the reflection after each presentation.  
    • During Reconstruction, 2,000 Black men served in political office, and White people murdered at least that many Black people in racial terror lynchings. Why did White communities respond to Black political participation with violence? 
    • The Clinton Massacre took place at a Republican rally, two months before the 1875 state elections. What can be inferred regarding the timing and location of the Clinton Massacre?  
    • Prior to the Clinton Massacre, the federal government passed legislation protecting the rights of newly emancipated African Americans. Why didn’t those laws prevent this deadly attack and others like it?