My experience learning about the Reconstruction Era in school (which I’m sure was like most people’s) centered around the Reconstruction Amendments and the actions of the President and Congress.
As a teacher, I wanted to go beyond the amendments to introduce my students to the individuals who were involved in the abolition movement and the fight for equality and justice. The Reconstruction Mixer lesson did just that. Students took on roles of people involved not just in the abolitionist movement but also in the women’s rights and union workers’ movement. It’s a good day when students know the names and stories of people who fought for justice in their community and their nation.
The diversity of the people included in the activity led to some interesting conversations. In our post-mixer discussion, students spoke up about the tensions between different movements, especially the abolitionist and women’s rights movements. My class delved into a deeper conversation about what to do when you don’t get what you are fighting for — do you support the other movements or do you stand firm and focus on only what you want? This is a discussion we would not have had if we had just looked at the Reconstruction Amendments and the actions of the people at the top! I will definitely be doing this lesson again in my class.