After the Civil War, the bloodiest war in American History, the United States government quickly discovered that there were still many battles ahead. From how to integrate its newly freed slave population to how to reincorporate the very same Southern states who just fought against them in a war, the Reconstruction Era was not an easy time in U.S. history, and lasted from 1863 to 1877.
Following the surrender of the Confederate forces and the end of the American Civil War, the divided United States quickly needed to re-unite. Congress was ill prepared for the challenges it faced as it struggled to create a fair society for its newly freed black population and allow the states that were just recently in war against them to rejoin. After the Civil War, the new, formerly enslaved population faced an uphill battle against many in America who felt strongly against emancipation and integration.
However, thousands of Americans stood up to support the new rights given to the formerly enslaved. With that support came the addition of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution. The Reconstruction Era brought with it full abolishment of slavery in America (though the amendment allows for slavery as a form of punishment), defined the rights of citizens, and gave voting rights to African Americans. Still, despite the accomplishments of this time, America faced a future of divided wounds from a war-torn country and failed to create an inclusive and protective society for all of its citizens.
With the activities in this lesson plan, students will research, define, and visualize the critical aspects of the Reconstruction Era. Students will examine the significant individuals who led America through this era, they will create a timeline of the major events, and showcase their understanding of the landmark amendments which were passed as a result of the Reconstruction Era.
If you're interested in exploring the 13th Amendment further, Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th digs deeper into how it has affected history. While better suited for older students, it can help provide additional context for the progression of history.