Sowing the Wind
The Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1890
How a radical constitution blocked racial progress and upended the class system
In 1890, Mississippi called a convention to rewrite its constitution. That convention became the singular event that marked the state's transition from the nineteenth century to the twentieth and set the path for the state for decades to come. The primary purpose of the convention was to disfranchise African American voters as well as some poor whites. The result was a document that transformed the state for the next century. In Sowing the Wind, Dorothy Overstreet Pratt traces the decision to call that convention, examines the delegates' decisions, and analyzes the impact of their new constitution.
Pratt argues the constitution produced a new social structure, which pivoted the state's culture from a class-based system to one centered upon race. Though state leaders had not anticipated this change, they were savvy in their manipulation of the issues. The new constitution effectively filled the goal of disfranchisement. Moreover, unlike the constitutions of many other southern states, it held up against attack for over seventy years. It also hindered the state socially and economically well into the twentieth century.
"A compelling portrait of an understudied episode in American constitutional and political history. "- Cynthia Nicoletti, University of Virginia School of Law, Journal of Southern History, Volume LXXXV, No. 2, May 2019
"Pratt is convincing when she traces many of the problems of twentieth century Mississippi to the 1890 Constitutional Convention. She notes that Mississippi and South Carolina were typically at the bottom of a host of economic and social measures, attributing the low rankings to tax policies and school funding issues that arose under the new Constitution. Further, it is hard to argue with her conclusion that because of that document, "the civil rights era was preordained. ""- Stephen Cresswell, West Virginia Wesleyan College, The Journal of Mississippi History
"For the first time, the full story of Mississippi's turn from the use of violence and terrorism toward legal constitutional means of enforcing white supremacy is told. Dorothy Overstreet Pratt takes us inside the lives of those men who crafted Mississippi's Constitution of 1890. The story she tells is complicated and troubling, and it is a story only a skilled historian and native Mississippian such as she could tell. "- Don H. Doyle, McCausland Professor of History, emeritus, University of South Carolina, and author of Faulkner's County: The Historical Roots of Yoknapatawpha