Reconstruction Model Lesson Documents

Thomas Nast, Emancipation, 1865

Excerpts from the Constitution of the United States - Slavery Amendments

Document 1
The Thirteenth Amendment
Ratified December 6, 1865

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment of a crime wherof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

involuntary servitude: being forced to work against your will

Document 2
The Fourteenth Amendment
Ratified July 9, 1868

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

abridge – take away
due process – legal procedure that must be the same

Document 3
The Fifteenth Amendment
Ratified February 3, 1870

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

servitude = slavery

Overview of Reconstruction

The term reconstruction means to repair or rebuild something that has been damaged or destroyed. In the history of the United States, the term Reconstruction refers to the time after the Civil War in which the country was rebuilt. This rebuilding involved physical things that were destroyed such as railroads, houses, cities, and farms. The greatest challenges during the Reconstruction era however involved the social and political rebuilding that needed to take place. What should happen to the former Confederates? How should the North and the South be reunited? How should the wounds of secession and the war be healed? What should happen to the four million formerly enslaved people called freedmen? Finally, what would freedom mean for the freedmen?

Reconstruction Timeline




Document 5


Document 6

Alfred R. Wauld, "The First Vote," in Harper's Weekly, November 16, 1867


Document 7

Protest of the Freedmen of Edisto Island , South Carolina to General Howard, October 1865

Note: This document is in the original spelling in which it was written.

Homesteads - lands to settle and live on

General we want Homesteads; we were promised homesteads by the government; If It does not carry out the promises Its agents made to us, If the government Haveing concluded to befriend Its late enemies and to neglect to observe the principles of common faith between Its self and us Its allies In the war you said was over, now takes away from them all right to the soil they stand upon save such as they can get by again working for your late and thier all time enemies - If the government does so we are left In a more unpleasant condition than our former.

we are at the mercy of those who are combined to prevent us from getting land enough to lay our Fathers bones upon. We Have property In Horses, cattle, carriages, & articles of furniture, but we are landless and Homeless, from the Homes we Have lived In In the past we can only do one of three things Step Into the public road or the sea or remain on them working as In former time and subject to their will as then. We can not resist It In any way without being driven out Homeless upon the road.

You will see this Is not the condition of really freemen.
In behalf of the people
Committee: Henry Bram, Ishmael Moultrie, Yates Sampson


Document 8

Thomas Nast, "This is a White Man's Government," In Harper's Weekly, September 5. 1868

Document 9

Thomas Nast, "Worse than Slavery" 1874


Document 10

Sharecropping - agricultural production in which a landowner allows a sharecropper to use the land in return for a share of the crop produced on the land.

Most former slaves desperately wanted land to farm but had no money to buy it. Meanwhile, their former owners desperately needed workers to farm their land but had no money to pay them. Out of the needs of both groups came a farming system called sharecropping.

Planters who turned to sharecropping divided their land into small lots. They rented these plots to individual tenant farmers (farmers who pay rent for the land they work). A few tenants paid the rent for their plots in cash. But most paid the rent by giving the landowner a share – usually a third or a half – of the crops they raised on their plots.

Sharecropping looked promising to freedmen at first. They liked being independent farmers who worked for themselves. In time, they hoped to earn enough money to buy a farm of their own.

However, most sharecroppers had to borrow money from planters to buy food, seeds, tools, and supplies they needed to survive until harvest-time. Few ever earned enough from their crops to pay back what they owed. Rather than leading to independence, sharecropping usually led to a lifetime of poverty and debt.

From History Alive! The United States Through Industrialism, Teacher’s Curriculum Institute, Palo Alto CA. 2005 (page 327).

Reconstruction DBQ Prompt

You have spent the last few days examining documents that relate to the experiences of the freedmen during the time of Reconstruction. The Reconstruction era lasted from roughly 1863 – 1877. This was a time of rebuilding for America and new experiences for the formerly enslaved African-Americans. Using the document analysis sheet and the essay organizer you have filled out, answer the following question.

Was Reconstruction more of a success or failure for freedmen?
Task: Write an essay in which you:
1. Provide a short explanation of Reconstruction to build the historical context/background for your essay.
2. Write a clear thesis statement that addresses the question above.
3. Use at least three documents in your essay. Cite the specific document titles such as (The Thirteenth Amendment).
4. For each document you use, identify at least one specific piece of evidence that supports your argument. To be specific, it should either be a direct quote from a document, a paraphrased version of a quote, or a description of a specific detail from an image.
5. Provide clear analysis for each document in which you explain how your evidence “proves” your argument.
6. Include a conclusion in which you restate your main ideas.

Suggested Vocabulary
Use at least 8 of the following 12 terms correctly in your essay. Underline each term that you use.