As a high school history teacher and a lifelong learner of history, I know it is VERY important for our students to understand the Reconstruction Era.
Although for many years this period in U.S. history was painted as a “failure,” the rich history of formerly enslaved African Americans is important for young people to understand and to see for themselves in the making of this nation.
When I teach Reconstruction, history comes alive for my students. They see their ancestors as more than just enslaved people, but as people who took agency over their lives to create a better future for their descendants. The strength of the historic figures of this period, whether well known to history or not, gives students the representation they need to feel engaged in history. Additionally, students start to make connections from the past to the present knowing that we as African Americans still have a way to go to achieve equality and parity in this nation.
After teaching the Reconstruction period, my students see why the push back of Jim Crow became the national norm and they vow to find ways to claim their seat at the table to crush that ugly spirit. Teaching Reconstruction is fulfilling for me as an educator and very necessary for my students to understand as they move to become the future leaders our country needs to survive.