July 25th, 1890

White Advocate of Black Voting Rights Murdered in Mississippi

In 1875, the last Union forces left Mississippi, Reconstruction ended, and state Democrats began an ongoing campaign to restore and maintain white supremacist rule. Black Mississippians, whose citizenship and voting rights had been established by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, were now without proximate federal protection and wholly vulnerable to discrimination. When Mississippi convened delegates to create a new state constitution in 1890, disenfranchising the black electorate was a primary goal.

Elected delegates were the only Mississippians authorized to attend and participate in the constitutional convention that would create the state’s new governing document. During the summer of 1890, F.M.B. “Marsh” Cook, a white Republican and former candidate for Congress, campaigned for a delegate position out of Jasper County. An advocate of civil rights for the country’s new black citizens, Cook vowed that he would use his position as delegate to oppose all attempts to create a state constitution that limited black voting rights. Cook also encouraged the local black community to organize against the creation of discriminatory constitutional provisions.

Cook’s political views were not popular among some whites in the community and he received threats. On the afternoon of July 25, 1890, one day after giving a speech regarding the upcoming convention, Cook was found dead near Mount Zion Baptist Church. He had been dead for several hours, fatally struck by fifteen rounds of buckshot. No one was arrested or tried for the killing, and after Cook’s death, local Democrats alleged he was a dangerous man who had been inciting local blacks against whites. The 1890 Mississippi constitutional convention moved forward, and resulted in a state constitution that established literacy tests and poll taxes that effectively disenfranchised nearly all of the state’s black electorate.