316 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI AARON HENRY The “Freedom Vote” campaign in 1962 was organized by Aaron Henry while he was president of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). In 1963, COFO organized a mock election in order to show how eager African American citizens were to vote. Edwin King, a white man known for being active in the Civil Rights Movement, ran against Henry in the mock election where nearly 80,000 African American citizens voted. Henry was selected as the gubernatorial candidate. The mock election was a platform to end segregation and offer fair employment, better schools, and a right to vote. PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF ARCHIVES AND HISTORY, MONCRIEF, WINFRED PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION Prior to emancipation, slave marriages were illegal. Freedom now in hand, African American marriages were sanctioned by law, and across the Delta and the South, African Americans formed legal families for the first time in U.S. history. Freedmen worked to build their own churches, a move that led to the church becoming the most important institution for African Americans in the Delta. Freedmen staked their claim to the land and sought to reap the fruits of their own labors. Hoping to own land and build wealth, they worked with the federal agency known as the Freedman’s Bureau to sign labor contracts, build schools, and ensure that the basic needs of ex-slaves were met. Freedmen also formed political voluntary associations to help their communities. African American males became politically active, hoping not only to vote but hold political office at the local, state, and even national levels. Republicans became the dominant force in Mississippi politics during Reconstruction thanks largely to African Americans. James Alcorn, a Whig turned secessionist, understood the changing political winds of the post—Civil War period and formed alliances with African American officeholders and voters to create a robust Republican Party. In Mississippi, the Party of Lincoln pushed through a new system of land taxes to fund public schools for the first time in state history. Higher taxes also financed levee construction and railroad repairs, among other measures, to help rebuild the state after the devastation of war. This agenda put Republicans at odds with the conservative planters who owned the lands that were taxed to fund these reforms. The political revolution of Reconstruction was particularly astonishing. African Americans held a variety of political offices in the Delta during the period from 1865 to 1877. From African American sheriffs to a former slave