The role play was an excellent way to get students to consider the complex issues and questions facing the country and freedmen at the end of the Civil War. I gave students the “Problems” questions on day one and told them that the next day I would not be guiding them, and they would have to decide how to conduct the proceedings.
It was fascinating because they quickly decided to arrange the desks in a circle and started discussing a format for their discussion. It evolved into a co-chair system, with one person introducing the question/issue and the other facilitating the discussion. They decided to vote after some debate. The facilitator summarized the discussion and then conducted a vote. Afterward, I assigned some reflection questions on goformative.com.
One student comment indicated how useful this exercise was: “It was difficult to come to a specific consensus. For instance, we can all agree on punishing Confederate leaders but agreeing on HOW to punish them is very difficult. Freedmen and women had been excluded for centuries, and people don’t like change. It is very difficult to accept such a change like that.”
This captured the ambiguity and complexity and uncertainty in addressing these issues. They showed a keen awareness that resolving some of these issues was going to be longterm.