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. The following are lessons, books, and films for teaching outside the textbook about the Reconstruction Era.

Nov. 23, 1887: Thibodaux Massacre
By | November 23, 2017

Black Louisiana sugarcane workers, in cooperation with the racially integrated Knights of Labor, had gone on strike at the beginning of November in 1887 over their meager pay issued in scrip (not cash). The scrip was redeemable only at the company store where excessive prices were charged.
An article in …
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When Black Lives Mattered: Why Teach Reconstruction
By | October 24, 2017

By Adam Sanchez

Every day seems to bring new horrors as the U.S. president’s racist rhetoric and policies have provided an increasingly encouraging environment for attacks on Black people and other communities of color. The acquittal of yet another police officer accused of murdering a Black man in St. Louis, the raging battle across the country over whether symbols of slavery should be removed from public spaces, and the formation of a “Commission on Election Integrity” to further suppress voting by people of color are just a few of the recent reminders that racism is as American as apple pie. In moments like these, it’s worth remembering a time in U.S. history when Black lives mattered.

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Five Myths About Reconstruction
By | February 21, 2017

By James W. Loewen
The United States is entering the sesquicentennial of Reconstruction. Unlike with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, however, few historic places tell us what happened during Reconstruction.

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Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery
By | October 31, 2017

Website.
An archive of thousands of “Information Wanted” advertisements taken out by people freed from slavery who are searching for family members who had been sold apart.

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Reconstructing the South: A Role Play
By | January 16, 2017

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. 17 pages.
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.

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Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution: Teaching a People’s History of Reconstruction (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution: Teaching a People’s History of Reconstruction
By | January 1, 2012

Background Reading for Teachers. By Bill Bigelow. 4 pages.
A review of Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution, a collection of primary documents for high school on the Civil War and Reconstruction.

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Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution: An Inquiry Into the Civil War and Reconstruction (Book) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution: An Inquiry Into the Civil War and Reconstruction
By | October 29, 2007

Teaching Guide. By American Social History Project with foreword by Eric Foner. 1996. 302 pages.
Primary documents, essays, and questions to teach the untold story of Reconstruction.

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The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy (Website) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy
By | January 16, 2017

Teaching Guide.
A collection of lessons, videos, and primary sources to teach about Reconstruction.

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Reconstructing Democracy: Grassroots Black Politics in the Deep South After the Civil War
By | October 11, 2017

Book – Non-fiction. By Justin Behrend. 2015. 376 pages.
Justin Behrend argues that freed-people created a new democracy in the Reconstruction era, replacing the oligarchic rule of slaveholders and Confederates with a grassroots democracy.

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A Short History of Reconstruction, Updated Edition (Book) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

A Short History of Reconstruction, Updated Edition
By | February 20, 2017

Book – Non-fiction. By Eric Foner. 2015. 352 pages.
A people’s history view of the Reconstruction era.

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Black Reconstruction in America
By | September 18, 2017

Book – Non-fiction. By W. E. B. Du Bois. Introduction by David Levering Lewis. 2014. 623 pages.
Originally published in 1935, Du Bois’ Black Reconstruction was the first book to challenge the prevailing racist historical narrative of the era and in sharp, incisive prose, tell the story of the Civil War and Reconstruction from the perspective of African Americans.

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The Era of Reconstruction, 1861-1900
By | September 18, 2017

Book – Non-fiction. By National Park Service. 2017. 165 pages.
A theme study on the history of the Reconstruction era.

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The Black Americans: A History in Their Own Words, 1619-1983
By | December 17, 2006

Book – Non-fiction. Edited by Milton Meltzer. 1987. 320 pages.
Engaging first person stories and primary documents.

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Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (Book) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
By | July 17, 2006

Book – Non-fiction. By James W. Loewen. 2007. 464 pages.
Provides a detailed critique of 12 leading high school history textbooks.

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A People's History of the United States (Book) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present
By | March 1, 2011

Books – Non-fiction. By Howard Zinn. 2005, with a new introduction by Anthony Arnove in 2015. 784 pages.
Howard Zinn’s groundbreaking work on U.S. history. This book details lives and facts rarely included in textbooks—an indispensable teacher and student resource.

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Voices of a People’s History of the United States (Book, 10th anniv.) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Voices of a People’s History of the United States, 10th Anniversary Edition
By | January 23, 2011

Book – Non-fiction. Edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove. 2014. 704 pages.
Speeches, letters, poems, and songs for each chapter of A People’s History of the United States.

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Crow (Book) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Crow
By | February 15, 2012

Book – Fiction. By Barbara Wright. 2012. 304 pages.
Historical fiction about an Reconstruction era African American community violently robbed of its freedom and democracy in turn of the century North Carolina.

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Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule
By | March 2, 2011

Book – Fiction. By Harriette Gillem Robinet. 1998. 144 pages.
Historical fiction featuring 12-year-old Pascal, 8-year-old Nellie, and their older brother Gideon, a Union Army aide, as they claim and farm the land promised to them during Reconstruction.

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Freedom Road
By | October 10, 2005

Book – Fiction. By Howard Fast. 1944. 294 pages.
The politics and economics of Reconstruction told through memorable historical fiction.

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A Moment in the Sun
By | May 9, 2011

Book – Fiction. By John Sayles. 2011. 968 pages.
Spanning five years and half a dozen countries, Sayles’ novel of historical fiction paints a picture of the late 1890s — from the racist coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the bloody dawn of U.S. interventionism in Cuba and the Philippines.

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The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Book) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
By | October 21, 2016

Picture book. By Chris Barton. Illustrated by Don Tate. 2015. 50 pages.
An in-depth look at the Reconstruction period through the life of one of the first African-American congressmen.

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Henry McNeal Turner: “Eligibility of Colored Members to Seats in the Georgia Legislature”
By | June 23, 2011

Film clip. Voices of a People’s History.
Henry McNeal Turner’s “Eligibility of Colored Members to Seats in the Georgia Legislature” (1868), read by Danny Glover.

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Reconstruction: The Second Civil War
By | October 10, 2017

Film. By Elizabeth Deane and Dion Graham. 2004. 174 min.
Through the voices of several historians and dramatic re-enactments by actors, PBS’s Reconstruction: The Second Civil War uses the stories of ordinary citizens to paint a picture of the Reconstruction era.

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Roudanez: History and Legacy
By | January 8, 2016

Website.
Archive of the work of Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez, founder of the first Black daily newspaper in the U.S., the New Orleans Tribune, with articles, excerpts, videos, and a timeline.

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