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Hale Library: Reconstruction -- 8th-Grade Inquiry Project

Essential Question -- Inquiry Question -- Research Question

Was American Reconstruction policy successful in integrating former slaves into southern society?

Primary Sources Vs. Secondary Sources

Primary Sources -- A primary source is an original, first-hand, or eye-witness account offering an inside view.

Examples of Primary Sources:  diaries, interviews, letters, raw data, official documents, legislation and court records, photographs, journal articles, newspaper articles, autobiographies, and speeches.

Secondary Sources -- A secondary souce provides second-hand information that has been digested, analyzed, reworded, and interpreted. 

Examples of Secondary Sources:  encyclopedia articles, non-fiction books, commentary-style websites

The 3 Amendments of Reconstruction

The 13th Amendment  -- The 13th Amendment (adopted in 1865) abolishes slavery or involuntary servitude except in punishment for a crime. 

The 14th Amendment -- The 14th Amendment (adopted in 1868) defines all people born in the United States as citizens, requires due process of law, and requires equal protection to all people.

The 15th Amendment -- The 15th Amendment (ratified in 1870) prevents the denial of a citizen's vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.  

The Reconstruction Act of 1867

It took two years, but the plan for the reconstruction of our country was finally voted on and passed by Congress in 1867.  President Andrew Johnson did not support equal rights for African Americans and he promptly vetoed the bill.  Fortunately, Senators Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner and other "radical reconstructionists" drummed up enough support in Congress for the bill to pass.

Here is what the Reconstruction Act of 1867 did...

1. It divided the South into 5 military districts.  (The military stationed in these districts were told to make sure that reconstruction was happening and the freed slaves were protected.)

The five districts were...

a. Virginia

b. the Carolinas

c. Georgia, Alabama, Florida

d. Arkansas, Mississippi

e. Louisiana, Texas

2. It told the southern states that they had to have new elections with African American men being allowed to vote.

3.  It only allowed the southern states back into the Union after they ratified the 14th Amendment and guaranteed African-American adult, male voting rights.

About 20 days later, Congress passed an additional reconstruction act that required military presence at elections.  Andrew Johnson vetoed this again saying American citizens should "be left to the free exercise of his own judgment when he is engaged in the work of forming the fundamental law under which he is to live."  



Ten Things About The Black Codes

1.  The Black Codes were state laws designed to restrict freed slaves' activity.

2.  The Black Codes were state laws designed to ensure freed slaves' availability as a labor force.

3. Some states required African Americans to sign yearly labor contracts, and if they refused they could be arrested, fined, or forced to work without pay.

4. The Black Codes were so horrible that they made many people stop supporting President Johnson's ideas for reconstruction and begin supporting the ideas of the radical reconstructionists. 

5. Mississippi and South Carolina enacted the first Black Codes in 1865.

6. Mississippi's first Black Code was a law that said African Americans had to have written evidence of employment for the coming year each January.  

7.  South Carolina's first Black Code was a law that prohibited African Americans from having any jobs besides farmer or servant -- unless they paid a special tax that could be anywhere from $10 to $100.

8. Unfortunately, the other southern states followed Mississippi's and South Carolina's example and passed Black Codes of their own.

9. Every southern state had strict "vagrancy" laws which could have African Americans arrested (and forced to work without pay) at the drop of a hat, and they had "antienticement" laws which punished anyone who offered higher wages to an black laborer already under contract.

10. The Black Codes weren't really abolished until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- which is almost 100 years later.  

Read part of a 1865 magazine article...

Who: William Mason Grosvenor, abolitionist and officer in the Union army

What: Part of an article that was published in the New Englander magazine in 1865

Why:  Mr. Grosvenor wrote the article to convince the politicians that their Reconstruction policies should be harsh.  They should not let the people and the states that seceded from the Union off easy.

Here is part of the last paragraph...

Schemes of reconstruction which make possible immunity for the great conspirators, or instant return to all political privileges for traitors as well as loyalists, will not be such as the people will approve or the nation can safely adopt.  Nor will it answer, in overflowing leniency for past offenses, to neglect security for healthy political action in the future.  Men who have deliberately betrayed trusts...are not safely to be trusted as loyal and true citizens...Instead of {allowing the Southern states to use their old state constitutions}...the admission of new States demolishes a shameful past, and secures new and spotless constitutions, each in harmony in every part with the spirit of the new era, and instinct and vital with freedom and loyalty.


Read part of a book of essays about the Civil War published in 1866

Who:  Herman Melville, author, pacifist

What:  This is an excerpt from a book of essays Mr. Melville wrote about the Civil War. 

Why:  In this particular essay he is hoping that the leaders of our country will adopt humane and revenge-free reconstruction policies. 

No consideration should tempt us to pervert the national victory into oppression for the vanquished...Let us pray that the terrible historic tragedy of our time may not have been enacted without instructing our whole beloved country through terror and pity; and may fulfillment verify in the end those expectations which kindle the bards of progress and humanity. 


Read part of a letter reporting the crimes of the KKK

Who:  Albion W. Tourgee, lawyer, Civil War veteran, so-called "carpetbagger"

What:  Part of letter to North Carolina's Senator, Joesph C. Abbott

Why:  He wanted to report the violent and murderous attacks the were being lead by the Klu Klux Klan, and he wanted the Senator to see that victims had no recourse (or help) from local government or law enforcement.  They needed federal help -- and they needed it now!

There have been twelve murders in five counties of the district during the past 18 months, by bands of disguised villains.  In addition to this, from the best information I can derive, I am of the opinion that in this district alone there have been 1,000 outrages of a less serious nature perpetrated by the same masked fiends...The uselessness of complaint from the lack of the ability in the laws to punish is fully known to all.  The danger of making such complaint is also well understood...

And yet the Government sleeps...

Read the testimony of a man being questioned about the KKK by a Congressional committee in 1871

Who: John Brown Gordon, former Confederate general, future governor of Georgia, future US Senator

What:  His testimony in front of a special committee established by Congress to investigate the rise of white secret societies in the South.

Here is one of his answers...

I do not know anything about any Klu Klux organization, as the papers talk about it...I do know that an organization did exist in Georgia at one time.  I know that in 1868 -- I think that was the time.  I know that I was approached and asked to attach myself to a secret organization in Georgia.  I was approached by some of the very best citizens of the State -- some of the most peaceable, law-abiding men, men of large property, who had large interests in the State.  The object of this organization was explained to me, and I want to say that I approved of it most heartily.  I would approve again of a similar organization, under the same state of circumstances.  This society was purely a police organization to keep the peace, to prevent disturbances in our State.

Read part of a speech given on the eve of reconstruction

Who:  Frances Harper, lecturer, writer, and  poet

What:  This is a speech Ms. Harper gave before the collapse of Reconstruction.  

Why: She is encouraging African Americans throughout the country to demonstrate their independence from whites.  This she, concludes, is the most effective way for African Americans to ensure their acceptance as equals in American society.

Here is an excerpt...

We have a civilization which has produced grand and magnificent results, diffused knowledge, overthrown slavery, made constant conquests over nature, and built up wonderful material prosperity.  But two things are wanting in American civilization -- a keener and deeper, broader and tenderer sense of justice -- a sense of humanity, which will crystallize into the life of the nation the sentiment that justice -- simple justice is the right, not simply of the strong and powerful, but if is the right of the weakest and feeblest of all God's children.


Read some of the debate in Congress in 1866 about the 14th Amendment

Who:  Senator Hale (seems to be against the 14th amendment)  and Senator Bingham (seems to be for the 14th amendment).

Here is part of their February 28, 1866 debate...

Mr. Hale:  The gentleman misapprehends my point, or else I misapprehend his answer.  My question was whether this provision, if adopted, confers upon Congress general powers of legislation in regard to the protection of life, liberty, and personal property.

Mr. Bingham: It certainly does this: it confers upon Congress power to see to it that the protection given by the laws of the United States shall be equal in repect to life and liberty and property to all persons. 

Mr. Hale:  Then will the gentleman point me to that clause or part of this resolution which contains the doctrine he here announces?

Mr. Bingham: The words "equal protection" contain it, and nothing else.

Read some more of the debate

Who:  Senator Stevens

What:  Explaining the different parts (or provisions) of the 14th amendment to the rest of Congress on May 8, 1866.

Mr. Stevens:  Let us now refer to the provisions of the proposed amendment.

The first section prohibits the States from abridging (or stoping) the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, or unlawfully depriving them of life, liberty, or property, or of denying to any person within their jurisdiction the "equal" protection of the laws. 

I can hardly believe that any person can be found who will not admit that every one of these provisions is just.  They are all asserted, in some form or other, in our DECLARATION or organic law.  But the Constitution limits only the action of Congress, and is not a limitation on the States.  This amendment supplies that defect, and allows Congress to correct unjust legislation of the States...

Read more from the debate

Who:  Senator Garfield

What:  He is debating the importance of giving African American men the right to vote.  He wants this to be part of the 14th amendment.

Mr. Garfield:  Sir, I believe that the right to vote, if it be not indeed one of the natural rights of all men, is so necessary to the protection of their natural rights as to be indispensable...I believe that the golden sentence of John Stuart Mill ought to be written on the constitution of every State, and on the Constitution of the United States as the greatest and most precious of truths.  "That the ballot is put into the hands of men, not so much to enable them to govern others as that he may not be misgoverned by others."  I believe suffrage is the shield, the sword, the spear...

But I am willing, as I said once in this presence, when I cannot get all I wish, to take what I can get...


A little more of the debate

Who: Senator Bingham

What:  He is debating with other Senators in Congress about the 14th amendment

Why:  He really wants to add voting rights (or suffrage ) into the 14th amendment

To all such I beg leave again to say, that many instances of State injustice and oppression have already occurred in the State legislation of this Union, of flagrant violations of the guaranteed privileges of citizens of the United States, for which the national government could furnish by law no remedy whatever.

Read an ad in the Freedman's Journal from 1865

What: An advertisement for teachers to work in the South.

Why:  As the Civil War ended, hundreds of schools for the children of freed slaves were established across the South.

WHAT???  Notice that the male teachers were paid twice as much as the female principals.

Teachers for the South -- Several teachers, principals and assistants, male and female, are needed for the Government schools (white and colored) recently established in the District of Eastern Virginia by order of Major Gen. Butler.  The salary of male teachers is,  principals $60 a month, assistants $45; female principals $30, assistants $20.  Applications, stating qualifications with accompanying testimonials should be forwarded at once to the Superintendent of Public Education. Preference will in all cases be given to disabled soldiers and soldier's wives, if suitably qualified.  The schools will be open Jan. 1, 1865.

Student Resources In Context

Don't forget that the database Student Resources in Context would be a very good place to visit for this project. A database is like a bucket.  It carries lots of incredible sources to you in one, handy-dandy container.  Using Student Resources in Context, you might just find...

1. Reference materials -- such as encyclopedia articles or almanac information

2. Biographies

3. Newspaper articles

4. Magazine articles

5. Academic journal articles

6. Images -- such as photographs, paintings, and maps

7. Website suggestions

8. Court case overviews

9. Audio clips

10. Video clips

11. Essays

12. Creative Works -- such as books, poems, and songs



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