“After the Civil War, much of the South lay in ruins… The future of the South was uncertain. How would these states be brought back into the Union? Would they be conquered territories or equal states? How would they rebuild their governments, economies, and social systems? What rights did freedom confer on formerly enslaved people? The answers to many of Reconstruction’s questions hinged on the concepts of citizenship and equality. The era witnessed perhaps the most open and widespread discussions of citizenship since the nation’s founding. It was a moment of revolutionary possibility and violent backlash… Resistance continued, and Reconstruction eventually collapsed. In the South, limits on human freedom endured and would stand for nearly a century more.”
-The American Yawp, Chap. 15 Introduction
[Image: The Freedmen’s Bureau; Alfred Rudolph Waud; Published in Harper’s Weekly on July 25, 1868; The Historic New Orleans Collection ]
Section 1: Learning Objectives
- Examine the challenges Lincoln administration confronted in its attempts to reconstruct the Border States and Union-occupied territory during the Civil War.
- Identify the general character of the social conditions within the nation in the aftermath of war.
- Demonstrate an understanding of Reconstruction and its impact on race relations in the United States.
- Analyze the positions of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and the Radicals in Congress on the nature and course of Reconstruction and the rights of the freedmen.
- Explain the effects of Reconstruction, the Black Codes, and the actions of the Freedmen’s Bureau on African Americans in the South and North.
- Examine the social fears that helped give rise to groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
- Explain the significance of the 13th, 14th, 15th, amendments.
- Assess the problems the Grant administrations faced in its attempts to deal with the political and economic issues confronting the nation.
Section 2: Textbook Readings
Boundless US History
Chapter: "Reconstruction: 1865–1877"
Alternative OER Textbook Resources
US History - OpenStax
Chapter 16: "The Era of Reconstruction, 1865–1877"
The American Yawp
Chapter 15: "Reconstruction"
History in the Making a History of the People of the United States
Chapter 17: “Reconstruction”
Section 3: Module Supplemental Readings/Videos
- Lincoln and Reconstruction
- The Civil War and Reconstruction: Aftermath of the Civil War
- Overview of Reconstruction
- Radical Reconstruction
- People & Politics After the Civil War
- The Freedmen's Bureau Online
- Why Was Andrew Johnson Impeached?
- Grant, Reconstruction and the KKK
- Ulysses S. Grant - Reconstruction
- Andrew Johnson & Reconstruction
- Reconstruction and 1876: Crash Course
- Radical Republicans From PBS's Reconstruction: The 2nd Civil War
- The Freedmen’s Bureau
- The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: A History
- African Americans After the War | History
Primary Source Documents
Section 4: Glossary of Key Terms
“10 percent” Reconstruction plan: Introduced by President Lincoln, it proposed that a state be readmitted to the Union once 10 percent of its voters had pledged loyalty to the United States and promised to honor emancipation.
Black Codes: Laws passed throughout the South to restrict the rights of emancipated blacks.
carpetbagger: A Northerner who went to the South after the Civil War for political or financial advantage.
Civil Rights Act of 1866: Legislation aimed to counteract the Black Codes by conferring citizenship on former slaves and making it a crime to deprive blacks of their rights to sue, testify in court, or hold property.
Fifteenth Amendment: Prohibits states from denying citizens the franchise on account of race.
Force Acts: Passed by Congress following a wave of Ku Klux Klan violence, that banned clan membership, prohibited the use of intimidation to prevent blacks from voting, and gave the U.S. military the authority to enforce the acts.
Fourteenth Amendment: Defined American citizenship, extended civil rights to freedmen, and prohibited States from taking away such rights without due process.
Freedmen’s Bureau: Created to aid newly emancipated slaves by providing food, clothing, medical care, education and legal support.
Ku Klux Klan: A fraternal society founded by six former officers in the South after the Civil War that evolved into a movement that promoted resistance and white supremacy by terrorizing freedmen and sympathetic whites.
Reconstruction Act: Divided the South into five military districts, disenfranchised former confederates, and required that Southern states both ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and write state constitutions guaranteeing freedmen the franchise before gaining readmission to the Union.
scalawags: White Southerners who supported the federal government during Reconstruction.
Seward’s Folly: Term for Secretary of State William Seward’s purchase of Alaska from Russia.
Tenure of Office Act: Required the President to seek approval from the Senate before removing appointees.
Thirteenth Amendment: Prohibits all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude.
Wade-Davis Bill: Passed by Congressional Republicans in response to Abraham Lincoln’s “10 percent plan,” it required that 50 percent of a state’s voters pledge allegiance to the Union, and set stronger safeguards for emancipation.
Section 5: Instructor Resources
INSTRUCTIONS: groups of 3-6 are given a plantation after the Civil War and must turn it into a community that is safe, productive and profitable for the ex-slaves and their ex-masters living there. After students have completed PART ONE have them decide how to spend the money they have been given as a windfall from a charitable organization.