While preparing to teach the Reconstruction unit this fall, I came across a powerful statement [from the intro of “Reconstructing the South: A Role Play”] regarding the typical treatment of the period in most high school classrooms: “What kind of country is this going to be? This was the urgent question posed in the period immediately following the U.S. Civil War. When students learn about Reconstruction, if they learn about this period at all, too often they learn how the presidents and Congress battled over the answer to this question. Textbooks and curricula emphasize what was done to or for newly freed people, but usually not how they acted to define their own freedom.” Needless to say, these words inspired me to seek out other resources beyond my textbook in order to help answer that important question.
“Reconstructing the South: A Role Play,” by Bill Bigelow, helped inspire my students by engaging them in multiple roles and situations that brought to the classroom lived experiences. Instead of merely reading about the lived experiences, my students portrayed and thus, really began to examine their own perspectives and paradigms of their lives and those of others through this experience. In short, I believe it was a powerful and meaningful, learning experience for all of us.