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About the Film

Forty Acres and a Mule
Plantations in Ruins
Black Legislators
Northerners in the South
Access to Learning
Slave to Sharecropper
The Negro Question
In God We Trust
White Men Unite
State by State

Teacher's Guide

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Teacher's Guide


Suggestions for Active Learning

Reconstruction: The Second Civil War offers insights into topics in American history including the Civil War, slavery, abolition, race relations, definitions of freedom and citizenship, civil rights, black suffrage and election to political office, impeachment, regional political differences, nationbuilding after war, the cotton economy, sharecropping, federal government intervention in the states, and more. You can use part or all of the film, or delve into the rich resources available on this Web site to learn more, either in a classroom or on your own.

The following activities are grouped into 4 categories: civics, history, economics, and geography. You can also read a few helpful hints for completing the activities.

History | Economics | Civics | Geography

  1. Assign each student one of the following terms: black codes, carpetbagger, 1866 Civil Rights Act, 1875 Civil Rights Act, election of 1876, "forty acres and a mule," Freedmen's Bureau, impeach, Ku Klux Klan, Presidential Reconstruction, Radical Reconstruction, Sea Islands (Georgia), sharecropping, "solid South," 14th Amendment, 15th Amendment.

    Have each student write two definitions of his or her term and how it relates to the history of Reconstruction: one definition should be accurate, while the other should sound accurate but be incorrect in some way. Collect the definitions, assemble them into a single text, and distribute them to the class; each student should pick the definitions he or she thinks are the correct ones. The person with the most correct answers wins.

  2. In the South after 1865, and in Iraq more recently, the United States faced the difficult task of restoring order and helping rebuild while seeking to avoid a long and costly involvement. Divide the class into four groups, one each for the following basic postwar tasks: maintaining order, rebuilding the government, rebuilding the economy, and sustaining Americans' support for the occupation effort. Half of each group should evaluate the government's success in this task during Reconstruction and should be able to cite at least two facts in support of their position. The other half should evaluate the government's success thus far in this task during the occupation of Iraq and should find at least two news articles in support of their position.

History | Economics | Civics | Geography

  1. Read the Web site section titled, Forty Acres and a Mule. The U.S. government provided very little in the way of economic help to the newly freed slaves during Reconstruction, but in recent years it has been proposed that the government make reparation payments to slaves' descendants in recognition of the enormous crime of slavery. Working with a partner, find out more about these proposals and how they might be implemented. Then work together to list three arguments in favor of this idea and three arguments against it. Finally, as a class, list on the board all the different kinds of reasons that groups chose and discuss which are most (and least) persuasive.

  2. View the 1870 map comparing each state's agricultural and factory values in 1860 and 1870. Divide the states equally among the students and have each student draw a graph showing the change between those two years in the value of the state's farms and factory products. (Each graph will have two data lines: one for farms' value, the other for factory products' value.) Now post these graphs around the room, separating those for the Confederate states from the other states. What do they tell you about how the South's economic fortunes compared to those of the North?

History | Economics | Civics | Geography

  1. One of Reconstruction's greatest legacies is participation by African Americans in national politics. Divide the class into three groups. Have the first group prepare a map showing how many African Americans currently serve in the U.S. Congress from each state. Have the second group prepare at least three graphs or charts illustrating some aspect of African Americans' participation in politics, historically or in the present day, either as officeholders or as voters. Have the third prepare biographical profiles of two African Americans who served either in Congress or in some other prominent position in the federal government, one from the Reconstruction Era and one from today. When all groups are done, each should present its findings to the other two.

  2. Read the primary sources Laws Fail to Protect Us, Were You Ever a Colored Boy?, Not Free Yet, and The First-Class Men of Our Town. Think of the different kinds of activities you and your family engage in, either on a daily basis (such as going to school or taking a bus across town) or on special occasions (such as voting): how might those activities be affected if your civil rights weren't protected? Would you do some things differently, or not at all? Working with a partner, list as many such examples as you can. What would be the cumulative effect of these sorts of violations of your civil rights?

History | Economics | Civics | Geography

  1. To see the effect of the "solid South" on presidential elections, assign each student one of the elections between 1900 and 2000 and have him or her prepare an electoral map showing which candidate won which states. Everyone in the class should use the same color scheme for the Democratic and Republican candidates so that the maps can be compared easily. When the maps are done, post them around the room in chronological order. What similarities do you see? What differences?

  2. Read historians' comments on the myths of Reconstruction. Divide the Confederate states equally among members of the class and have each group find at least three examples in the state they have been assigned of official monuments, war cemeteries, parks, public events, or organizations dedicated to preserving the memory of the Confederacy. Present these to the class. Then discuss as a class the arguments that might be made in support of, and in opposition to, such memorials.

  Teacher's Guide  
page created on 12.19.03
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Reconstruction: The Second Civil War
About the Film | Forty Acres and a Mule | Plantations in Ruins | Black Legislators
Northerners in the South | Access to Learning | Slave to Sharecropper | The Negro Question
In God We Trust | White Men Unite | State by State | Teacher's Guide

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