The constitutional amendments passed during Reconstruction vastly expanded former slaves’ rights and opportunities. At the same time, the Black Codes passed in most Southern towns, cities, and states curtailed those rights and opportunities. The tension between African Americans’ federal and local rights raises questions about the impact of Reconstruction on the freedom of former slaves. In this structured academic controversy, students examine constitutional amendments, a Black Code, a personal account of a former slave, and other documents to answer the question: “Were African Americans free during Reconstruction?"
[Lesson Plan updated on 9/23/14.]

Image: Political cartoon lampooning Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction created by Thomas Nast in 1866. From the Library of Congress.


I just finished facilitating this activity today (for both my regular and honors U.S. classes). It went well! One thing that I figured out by the second class was that it is very helpful, almost essential, for the students to come to a consensus about the definition of "free." Once they have an agreed upon a definition, it makes the discussion points more pointed.
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