The constitutional amendments passed during Reconstruction vastly expanded formerly enslaved people's 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 formerly enslaved people. In this structured academic controversy, students examine constitutional amendments, a Black Code, a personal account of a formerly enslaved person, and other documents to answer the question: “Were African Americans free during Reconstruction?"
[Student Materials updated on 9/13/22.]
Image: Political cartoon lampooning Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction created by Thomas Nast in 1866. From HarpWeek.