Teach Reconstruction Campaign

Teach Reconstruction Campaign | Zinn Education ProjectReconstruction, the era immediately following the Civil War and emancipation, is full of stories that help us see the possibility of a future defined by racial equity. Yet the possibilities and achievements of this era are too often overshadowed by the violent white supremacist backlash. Too often the story of this grand experiment in interracial democracy is skipped or rushed through in classrooms across the country. Today—in a moment where activists are struggling to make Black lives matter—every student should probe the relevance of Reconstruction. Our campaign aims to help teachers and schools uncover the hidden, bottom-up history of this era that teaches us.

We offer lessons for middle and high school, a student campaign to make Reconstruction history visible in their communities, and an annotated list of recommended teaching guides, student friendly books, primary document collections, and films. This campaign is informed by teachers who have used our Reconstruction lessons and a team of Reconstruction scholars.

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When Black Lives Mattered: Why Teach Reconstruction

Reconstruction, the era immediately following the Civil War and emancipation, is full of stories that help us see the possibility of a future defined by racial equity. Though often overlooked in classrooms across the country, Reconstruction was a period where the impossible suddenly became possible.

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Reconstructing the South: A Role Play Teaching Activity

This role play engages students in thinking about what freedpeople needed in order to achieve—and sustain—real freedom following the Civil War. It’s followed by a chapter from the book Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution on what would happen to the land in the South after slavery ended.

Teacher Comments
“I found the lesson plan to be a valuable addition to my teaching about this era. The students were engaged in their roles and, later, more engaged than ever before in finding out what choices were actually made the years following the Civil War.” —Amy Grant, a middle school social studies teacher, Dexter, Michigan
Read more teacher comments.

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The “Make Reconstruction History Visible” mapping project is an opportunity for students and teachers to identify and advocate for recognition of Reconstruction history in their community. This helps students learn about this vital era in U.S. history while also playing an active role in giving visibility to an era that has been hidden or misrepresented for too long.

For this project, students (individually or as a class) identify and document Reconstruction history such as schools, hospitals, election sites, Freedmen’s Bureau offices, Black churches, Black newspapers, Black owned businesses, prominent individuals, organizations, key events, and more. Learn how to participate.

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Teaching Reconstruction - Related Rsources




Readings, primary documents, and films for classrooms about the Reconstruction era.



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“How Do You Teach Slavery?”
Forgotten in the classroom:
The Reconstruction era
Teaching kids how battles about race from 150 years ago mirror today’s conflicts


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