I have used the Reconstructing the South role play as a roundtable activity for 3 years in my Junior year American History course. What an excellent challenge for my students!
After introducing Reconstruction, I give my students the readings and prompts that will be used in the roundtable, and they come in the next day ready to debate, with highlights and annotations and a place to start. With their materials handy and their seats all in a circle, my students easily slip into the shoes of newly freed African Americans planning their own futures. Many times a young woman will bring up voting rights for freedwomen, and she will argue forcefully and confidently.
At the end of the year, a large percentage of my students name the Reconstruction roundtable as a real highlight of all the activities we did in class that year. The roundtable helps them gain confidence as they run the whole discussion (I stay on the sidelines) and as they knowledgeably debate laws and positions that would help set their future courses in life. It is an excellent way to get students to walk in people from the past’s shoes! And when they continue to learn how Reconstruction finally turned out for the freed people, their understanding and their disappointment are very real.