I used this lesson today in my US History courses. It was my first time using this lesson, and I loved it. I plan to use it again in the future. I loved the way it introduces Reconstruction as a topic and the way it forces students to take on another role to think about the “freedom” or lack thereof at the time.
My students did wonderfully in taking on new roles and examining the issues of land ownership, protection, and voting. The way in which the lesson is designed allows students to engage in the complexity of history. I was reminded of a James Baldwin quote as they went through the tasks… something along the lines of “American history is both beautiful and terrible.” I find students always love being able to tackle issues in class that engage them in history. This activity was well-liked by most students because it allowed them to be active learners of history as opposed to the typical passive learning that is often thought of in history teaching.
A few students commented that it was incredibly difficult to come to a simple conclusion. They said it was too complex. A few students even mentioned the ambiguity of the solutions and how that was hard to rectify. Students appreciated the discussion and a handful of them really immersed themselves in their roles. I look forward to using more Zinn Ed lesson plans in the future.