The Republicans ruled Mississippi from 1870 to 1876. Adelbert Ames had been the military commander and provisional governor of Mississippi, appointed by President U.S. Grant. In 1873, he was elected governor.
Republican rule was resented because of the high expenses and high taxes. With the emancipation of the slaves, there were more citizens to be served. Infrastructure was rebuilt. Public schools were established.
The participation of blacks in the government was also resented. The lieutenant governor, secretary of state and commissioner of immigration and agriculture, 65 legislators, and the presiding officers of both houses of the legislature were black.
The KKK was active. Tensions were high. Riots broke out. Mounted riflemen, wearing red shirts, drilled and held torchlight parades at night to scare black people. Employers threatened to dismiss those who voted Republican. Governor Ames asked for federal military assistance, but he was refused.
In 1875, the “Mississippi plan” took place. On election day, militias paraded. Armed white men, supposedly going hunting, “accidentally” fired shots into the air near blacks. The Democrats carried the state.
The new Democrat-controlled legislature impeached Republican Governor Ames, the lieutenant governor, and the superintendent of education. Ames resigned. The President pro tempore of the Senate, John M. Stone, a former Confederate colonel, now became governor of Mississippi. Between 1876 to 1896, Stone served as governor 12 years.
Many whites felt uneasy about using illegal methods to maintain white control of the ballot box. Governor John M. Stone favored a new constitution and called a convention.
In 1890, 134 delegates convened to draw up a new constitution; only one was black. The counties were reapportioned, increasing the number of representatives from white counties. It gave the vote to all adult males except idiots, the insane, and Indians.
However, it imposed restrictions: residence two years in the state and one year in the district; voter registration four months prior to election; must not have committed certain crimes; a poll tax due two years in advance and production of the poll tax receipt at the time of vote. Most controversial was the requirement that every voter must be able to read any section of the state constitution, or as an alternative, be able to “understand” it when read to him, or give a “reasonable interpretation” of it.
The 1890 constitution also removed provisions for all citizens to serve on juries and the right of all citizens to travel on public conveyances. These requirements, with additions in legislation of 1892, resulted in a 90% reduction in the number of blacks who voted in Mississippi.
Four years later, under Governor John M. Stone, a new flag was adopted by the Mississippi legislature in a special session. The flag changes in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida coincided with the passage of formal Jim Crow segregation laws throughout the South.
What a lawless, arrogant lot we are. Lord, have mercy upon the state of Mississippi.
References: Mississippi Conflict and Change, by James W. Loewen and Charles Sallis; Wikipedia articles on John Marshall Stone and on the Mississippi state flag.