New Reconstruction Lesson with Dozens of Primary Documents

The Zinn Education Project is excited to announce a follow-up lesson to Reconstructing the South using primary source documents to reveal key outcomes of the Reconstruction era.

Reconstructing the South, written by Bill Bigelow, has students imagine the perspective of newly freedpeople grappling with six critical questions about how to organize and build a post-slavery society.

Mimi Eisen and Ursula Wolfe-Rocca designed this new activity to build off students’ curiosity and excitement from the role play into the process of finding out “what really happened” by analyzing and discussing an assortment of primary source documents.

A letter from a businessman from Boston who reports on the reaction of freedpeople to learning that land seized from Confederate plantation owners would be put up for auction by the U.S. government rather than awarded to the freedpeople who had toiled for decades on it without compensation.

Sample document from new lesson: A businessman from Boston reports on the reaction of freedpeople to learning that land seized from Confederate plantation owners would be put up for auction by the U.S. government rather than awarded to the freedpeople who had toiled for decades on it without compensation.

This collection is organized around five themes of Reconstruction: land, labor, suffrage, safety/protections, and the Confederate coalition. The lesson prompts students to analyze each document in conversation with others.

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