We timed the “Reconstructing the South: A Role Play” not too long after the students watched the documentary “Roots,” so they had a very good idea of the horrors of slavery and how degrading and traumatic the system was. Having this background, the students felt justified in some ways for taking land. However, there were also those who realized there would be backlash and animosity from southern landowners. The role/reversal example of taking lands from the Native Americans really made them think as well, but ultimately they focused on the unpaid debt of their forced labor for generations and felt entitled to ownership. Two out of the three sections voted to take the land, with the one vote being a razor-thin margin that could have gone either way.
The role play succeeded in showing the tug of war that was Reconstruction. Activation of prior knowledge kickstarted discussions over issues like who would protect the freedmen and women from hostile groups like the White League and the rise of the KKK? The focus on land and property ownership, and the political influence it brings goes a long way in understanding why the groups mentioned above had everything to gain by resisting the forced Reconstruction of the South. I would highly recommend this simulation because the simulation itself is relatively brief, but the discussions and question/answer periods were extremely thought-provoking!