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Internet Resources for Learning About Reconstruction

America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War
Reconstruction, one of the most turbulent and controversial eras in American history, began during the Civil War and ended in 1877. This exhibit examines issues and presents an up-to-date portrait of a period whose unrealized goals of economic and racial justice still confront our society. The text is by Eric Foner, Columbia University, and Olivia Mahoney, the Chicago Historical Society. Standards 8.11.1, 8.11.3, and 8.11.5

An Outline of the Reconstruction Era
This George Mason University site focuses on the promise of the Union to provide land to former slaves who escaped the South and joined the Union cause. After the end of the war, Congress reversed the process of providing newly freed slaves land that had been confiscated from the Confederacy. Primary source materials argue the case from both sides. Standard 8.11.1

Civil War and Reconstruction 1865-1877
When the Civil War ended, leaders turned to the question of how to reconstruct the nation. One important issue was the right to vote. Hotly debated were rights of black American men and former Confederate men to vote. In the latter half of the 1860s, Congress passed a series of acts designed to address the question of rights, as well as how the Southern states would be governed. Standards 8.11.1, 8.11.3, 8.11.4, and 8.11.5

Pictorial History of Reconstruction
This site has 100 pictures form the Reconstruction era showing major people, documents, and events. All digital images are available for download as jpeg files at 300 dpi of original size. Standards 8.11.2, 8.11.3, and 8.11.4

The twelve years following the Civil War carried vast consequences for the nation’s future. They helped set the pattern for future race relations and defined the federal government’s role in promoting racial equality. This site has readings, 20 primary sources from the Library of Congress, and teaching resources for a clear discussion of Reconstruction in the classroom. Standard 8.11.1

The Freedmen's Bureau Act, March 3, 1865
The act of Congress to establish a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees was one of the most significant laws of the Reconstruction Period. Standard 8.11.3
Comments: This is a vital primary source for the study of Civil Rights in the U.S..

Baltimore & the Fifteenth Amendment, May 19, 1870

In May of 1870 the Civil War had been over for five years and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had been in effect since 1863. With the country facing the stupendous task of rebuilding the South, and with Ulysses S. Grant and the radical Republicans promising to give freed slaves the right to vote, the Fifteenth Amendment passed Congress. Three quarters of the states had to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment for it to become part of the Constitution. Ironically, Maryland, a state that had rejected the amendment, was chosen as the site of one of the nation's largest celebrations of its ratification. In Baltimore, on May 19, 1870, a parade with over 20,000 participants was executed in an "imposing and hearty manner," and "the dancing was kept up until a late hour." Standard 8.11.1

Free African Americans -- Life Stories
Emancipation was one of the most important "revolutions" in American history. It fundamentally changed society and had a huge impact not only on the people who lived it, but those who came after. This site has selected material from those formerly enslaved, their former masters, and soldiers and civilians from the Civil War era. Standards 8.11.3 and 8.11.4
Comments: This is site is co-sponsored by the National Archives and the University of Virginia.

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery (1865)
The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." It passed the Senate on April 8, 1864, and the House on January 31, 1865. On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures. The necessary number of states ratified it by December 6, 1865. Standard 8.11.5
Comments: This Our Documents site has a facsimile of the original document, a transcription of it, and background information to help the reader put the document in context.

14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Civil Rights (1868)
Following the Civil War, Congress submitted to the states three amendments as part of its Reconstruction program to guarantee equal civil and legal rights to black citizens. The major provision of the 14th amendment was to grant citizenship to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States,” thereby granting citizenship to former slaves. Another equally important provision was the statement that “nor shall any state deprive any person of live, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The right to due process of law and equal protection of the law now applied to both the Federal and state governments. Standard 8.11.5
Comments: This Our Documents site has a facsimile of the original document, a transcription of it, and background information to help the reader put the document in context.

15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870)
To former abolitionists and to the Radical Republicans in Congress who fashioned Reconstruction after the Civil War, the 15th amendment, enacted in 1870, appeared to signify the fulfillment of all promises to African Americans. Set free by the 13th amendment, with citizenship guaranteed by the 14th amendment, black males were given the vote by the 15th amendment. Standard 8.11.5
Comments: This Our Documents site has a facsimile of the original document, a transcription of it, and background information to help the reader put the document in context.

Testimony of Benjamin Singleton: Archives of the West from 1877-1887
This primary source site about Benjamin Singleton who started a settlement near Topeka Kansas in the late 1860’s. This is his testimony before the Senate Select Committee Investigating the “Negro Exodus from the Southern States” in Washington, D. C., April 17, 1880. Standard 8.9.1
Comments: This is part of the PBS site “The West.”

Buffalo Soldiers
The International Museum of the Horse presents this exhibit on the Buffalo Soldiers, army units made up of African-American soldiers who transferred their fighting skills to the Western frontier after the Civil War. Standards 8.11.2

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park is the only California town to be founded, financed and governed by African Americans. Standard 4.4.4 and 8.11.3

End of the Civil War to Reconstruction: 1863-1875
Learn about the end of the Civil War, the assassination of Lincoln and the floundering efforts of reconstruction to build a government of the people, by the people, and for the people -- a government that protects all its people's freedoms. Standard 8.11.3, 8.11.4 and 8.11.5
Comments: This Annenberg Biography of America site has a primary source graphic, a map, a webography, a timeline and a full transcript of the video on which the program is based.

Frederick Douglass on the Condition of Freedmen in 1880

Frederick Douglass describes the condition of African Americans even after the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as one in which real social and political power in the South is still held in the hands of the former slave owners. Standards 8.11.1 and 8.11.2

Freedmen's Bureau
This site provides a good introduction to the workings of the Freedmen's Bureau by focusing on one community in Virginia. You will find a mix of primary and secondary sources that provide interesting insight into Reconstruction. Standard 8.11.3

History of the Ku Klux Klan
This British educational site examines the history of the Ku Klux Klan from the post Civil War period to the present, placing its evolution into historical context. It includes transcriptions of primary material. Standards 8.11.4 and 11.5.2
Comments: This content must be treated sensitively in the classroom.

President Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address 1865
On March 4, 1865, in his second inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of mutual forgiveness, North and South, asserting that the true mettle of a nation lies in its capacity for charity. "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." Standard 8.11.1
Comments: This Our Documents site has a facsimile of the original document, a transcription of it, and background information to help the reader put the document in context.

Wade-Davis Bill (1864)
At the end of the Civil War, this bill created a framework for Reconstruction and the readmittance of the Confederate states to the Union. The Wade-Davis Bill required that 50 percent of a state’s white males take a loyalty oath to be readmitted to the Union. In addition, states were required to give blacks the right to vote. Congress passed the Wade-Davis Bill, but President Lincoln chose not to sign it, killing the bill with a pocket veto. After Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, however, the Congress imposed the harsher reconstruction requirements first advocated in the Wade-Davis Bill. Standard 8.11.1
Comments: This Our Documents site has a facsimile of the original document, a transcription of it, and background information to help the reader put the document in context.

Hiram Revels
Hiram Revels was the first African-American to serve in the U.S. Senate. This brief biography will introduce you to this man of many accomplishments. Standard 8.11.2

Reconstruction Timeline
This timeline, developed by F.L. Carr for a history course at George Mason University, has embedded hotlinks to significant resources related to Reconstruction from 1865-1877, including Black Codes, Freedman's Bureau, Fourteenth Amendment, etc. Standard 8.11.0

Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, June 20, 1866
After the Civil War, the government of the United States had to figure out what to do with the states that had rebelled. There was a desire to protect the freedom of the newly emancipated, but people were uncertain that it was within the constitutionally outlined power of the federal government to do so. Here is a discussion of some of the issues from the committee charged with the task of Reconstruction. Standard 8.11.1

Thaddeus Stevens Speech of December 18, 1865
Stevens was an early and vehement critic of President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction policy and eventually became a leader in the effort to impeach the president. An advocate of treating Southern states during Reconstruction as "conquered provinces," Stevens encouraged strong, sweeping action by the federal government to revolutionize the institutions and culture that bolstered white supremacy in the South. The measures he supported included the Fourteenth Amendment and an unsuccessful plan to confiscate plantations and redistribute the land to former slaves. Here is one of his most famous speeches. Standard 8.11.1

Victims of the Ku Klux Klan (1935)
Here are three short primary sources from the collection of oral histories collected from former slaves through the New Deal’s WPA Writers Project. They describe in detail some of the tactics of the Klan, whose goal, according to U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, was "to reduce the colored people to a condition closely allied to that of slavery." Standard 8.11.4 and 11.5.2
Comments: This is sensitive material for the classroom.

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