Mississippi Justice is an educational film project based on actual events that occurred in 1951 in Mississippi’s rural Pike County. The storyline centers around a 20-year-old black female, Ms. Hattie Lee Barnes, who shot and killed a young blue-eyed, six-foot-tall, white male from a local prominent family. Charged with murder, Ms. Barnes was appointed the county’s newest, youngest, and most inexperienced public defender, Mr. Joe Pigott. In a span of only 20 days, Ms. Barnes was served an indictment, entered a not guilty plea, and found herself on trial for murder.

Produced by NMHS Unlimited, the film is factually based on documented trial records, extensive research, and interviews as it depicts an extraordinary case filled with unexpected twists and turns!

To accompany the film, NMHS Unlimited created The Learning Experience, an instructional resource series designed for teachers. These materials include Mississippi Justice, Then and Now: STRAIGHT TALK, which features a teacher’s resource guide that provides detailed lesson plans outlining objectives, goals, and engaging activities for students. While structured with an integrated approach to teaching history, social studies, language arts, and more through film and multimedia resources, it is also intended as a platform to spark meaningful conversations and explore more deeply the criminal justice system and race relations – then and now.

Mississippi Justice, Then and Now: STRAIGHT TALK also includes student workbooks, which are designed for grades 6 – 12. The teacher resource guides incorporate grade-appropriate College and Career Readiness Standards as well as the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The Learning Experience provides professional development support for teachers upon request.