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HIST211: Introduction to United States History - Colonial Period to Reconstruction

Unit 11: Reconstruction   Even before the last shots of the Civil War had been fired, President Lincoln and members of Congress faced serious questions about how to rebuild and reunite the war-torn United States and provide for nearly four million former slaves. The way in which the government responded to these questions shaped and defined the period now known as Reconstruction (the 12-year period following the Civil War from 1865 to 1877). Reconstruction was a time of significant political and social change in the United States. In this unit, we will take a look at the controversial origins of Reconstruction and evaluate its successes and failures. We will also examine how former slaves struggled against prejudice and political repression in the American South as they attempted to build new lives for themselves and their families. Finally, we will ask why Reconstruction came to an abrupt end in 1877 and evaluate its political and social legacy in the United States.

Unit 11 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 10 hours.

☐    Subunit 11.1: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 11.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 11.3: 4 hours

Unit11 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- identify the objectives of presidential and congressional Reconstruction following the Civil War; - assess the impact of Reconstruction on Caucasian and African American residents of the American South; and - analyze and interpret primary source documents from the 19th century using historical research methods.

11.1 The Politics of Reconstruction   - Reading: America.gov Archive’s Outline of U.S. History: “The Civil War and Reconstruction” Link: America.gov Archive’s Outline of U.S. History: “The Civil War and Reconstruction” (PDF)

 Instructions: Scroll down the webpage to begin with the section
entitled “With Malice toward None” and finish reading the remainder
of the article.  This chapter from America.gov’s *Outline of U.S.
History* compares the postwar political goals of President Andrew
Johnson with the goals of the Radical Republicans that controlled
Congress during and after the Civil War. It also discusses the major
political events that led to the end of Reconstruction in 1877.  

 Reading this chapter and taking notes should take less than 15
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

11.1.1 Presidential Reconstruction   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 39: Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction Plans” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 39: Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction Plans” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, select the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the first topic: “Presidential
Reconstruction.” Click on the “Text” tab and read all of the pages.
Then, click on the links under “Explore”and read the accompanying
text.  
    
 This resource discusses President Abraham Lincoln’s and President
Andrew Johnson’s plans for Reconstruction following the Civil War.
Both men offered generous terms of reconciliation to the defeated
Southern states and hoped to reintegrate these states back into the
Union politically, economically, and socially as quickly and
painlessly as possible.  

 Watching this presentations, reading the text, and taking notes
should take approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Fordham University: Paul Halsall's Internet Modern History Sourcebook: President Andrew Johnson’s “Proclamation Declaring the Insurrection at an End” Link: Fordham University: Paul Halsall's Internet Modern History Sourcebook: President Andrew Johnson’s “Proclamation Declaring the Insurrection at an End” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this 1866 proclamation in which President Andrew Johnson notes all the official statements made by the U.S. government during the Civil War about the South being in a state of rebellion against the Union. He then concludes that civil order and police authority have been restored to the South, and it is no longer officially in a state of insurrection. Johnson’s proclamation opened the door for these states to rejoin the Union politically, economically, and socially.

    After reading this document, please consider the following questions:

    • What does this document tell us about President Johnson’s opinion of the Confederate States of America and the concept of secession?
    • What does this document reveal concerning Johnson’s position on the rights of Americans under the U.S. Constitution?
    • How might the views expressed by Johnson here help explain his later opposition to Congressional Reconstruction (see subunit 11.1.2 below)?

    Reading the document and answering the questions above should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is reposted with permission from Paul Halsall. The original version can be found here.

11.1.2 Radical (Congressional) Reconstruction   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 39: Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction Plans” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 39: Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction Plans” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the third topic:
“Congressional Reconstruction.” Click on the “Text” tab and read all
of the pages. Then, click on the links under “Explore” and read the
accompanying text.  

 This resource discusses the role that Congress played in
Reconstruction. Congressional Republicans objected to President
Andrew Johnson’s weak Reconstruction policies that allowed former
Confederates to reenter political office and did little to protect
the civil rights of newly freed African Americans. They passed
important Constitutional amendments guaranteeing blacks voting
rights and U.S. citizenship. Congress also ordered the U.S. Army to
establish military districts in the South in order to enforce these
new laws. Southern states could regain home rule only after they
agreed to ratify the new civil rights legislation.  

 Watching this presentation, reading the text, and exploring the
associated content should take approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: University of Groningen: George M. Welling’s American History, from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond: United States Congress’ “Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction” Link: University of Groningen: George M. Welling’s American History, from Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond: United States Congress’ “Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this June 20, 1866 report in which Northern Republicans in Congress challenged President Andrew Johnson’s plans to allow Southern states to once again elect senators and representatives.  The congressmen argued that the Southern states voluntarily withdrew from the Union and consequently lost their right to elect members to Congress.  They asserted that Southern states should only be allowed to return members to Congress once they had reorganized their state governments and addressed civil rights concerns.

    After reading this document, please consider the following questions:

    • What reasons were given in this congressional report for suspending the rights of some of the inhabitants of the former Confederacy?
    • According to this report why was it necessary to guarantee the rights of the African American freedmen?
    • How would the proposals made in this report enable the Republican Party to dominate in the states of the former Confederacy?

    Reading this document and answering the above questions should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

11.1.3 The Impeachment of President Andrew Johnson   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 40: The End of Reconstruction – Impeachment of Johnson” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 40: The End of Reconstruction – Impeachment of Johnson” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the first topic: “Impeachment
of Johnson.”  Click on the “Text” tab and read all of the pages.
Then, click on the link for “Articles of Impeachment” under
“Explore” and read the accompanying text.  

 This resource discusses the impeachment trial of President Andrew
Johnson. Radical Republicans in Congress objected to Johnson’s
sympathetic attitude toward the South and passed the Military
Reconstruction Act and civil rights legislation over his veto. When
Johnson challenged Congress’s power to oversee Reconstruction
efforts, the House of Representatives drew up impeachment charges
against him and put him on trial. Johnson was not impeached, but he
did leave office once his term expired.  

 Watching this presentation and reading the accompanying text should
take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

11.2 The African American Experience during Reconstruction   11.2.1 Opportunities and Obstacles   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 40: The End of Reconstruction – Reconstruction of the South” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 40: The End of Reconstruction – Reconstruction of the South” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the second topic:
“Reconstruction of the South.” Click on the “Text” tab and read all
of the pages. Then, click on the link “Black Suffrage” under
“Explore” and read the accompanying text.  
    
 This resource focuses on the lives of African Americans in the
South following the Civil War. It discusses the role that blacks
played in Southern politics during Reconstruction and the violent
reaction by Southern whites against free blacks.  

 Watching this presentation and reading the text should take
approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Frederick Douglass’ “Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage” Link: Frederick Douglass’ “Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this 1867 appeal to Congress in which prominent African American advocate, Frederick Douglass, discusses the importance of voting rights for his people. He warns the members of Congress that Southernwhite Democrats will unite with Northern Democrats to regain control of the federal government if the Republicans in Congress do not enforce voting rights for African Americans. If the Democrats secure control of Congress, they will stop enforcing civil rights laws and take away African Americans’ hard-won freedoms.

    After reading this document, please consider the following questions:

    • In his appeal, what arguments does Frederick Douglass employ to persuade Congress to grant African Americans the right to vote?
    • According to Douglass, what would be the negative consequences of denying African Americans the right to vote?
    • To what extent were Douglass’s warnings prophetic (see subunit 11.3.3)?

    Reading this document and answering the above questions should take approximately 45 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

11.2.2 Oppression and Exodus   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 39: Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction Plans – The Black Codes” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 39: Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction Plans – The Black Codes” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the second topic: “The Black
Codes.” Click on the “Text” tab and read all of the pages. Then,
click on the link “Mississippi Black Codes” under “Explore” and read
the accompanying text.  
    
 This resource discusses the political measures that many Southern
states enacted after the Civil War to limit the civil rights of free
African Americans. Black Codes restricted African Americans’ ability
to organize politically, defend themselves from white oppression,
and work in jobs of their choosing.  

 Watching this presentation and reading the text should take
approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: United States Library of Congress’ African American Odyssey: “Reconstruction and Its Aftermath” Link: United States Library of Congress’ African American Odyssey: “Reconstruction and Its Aftermath” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read both parts of this article which focuses on African American experiences in the South and North in the decades after the Civil War through the exhibition of illustrations and publications concerned with the impact of emancipation on African Americans. You will explore the emigration of African Americans out of the South, the expansion of education in the African American community, prominent African American statesmen, and the activism of the Black Church.

    Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

11.3 The Failure of Reconstruction   11.3.1 The Election of 1876   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 40: The End of Reconstruction – Reconstruction Ends” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 40: The End of Reconstruction – Reconstruction Ends” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the third topic:
“Reconstruction Ends.” Click on the “Text” tab and read all of the
pages. Then, click on the links under “Explore” and read the
accompanying text. Please note that this media also covers the
topics for subunits 11.3.2 and 11.3.3.  

 This resource focuses on the political and economic turmoil in the
United States during the 1870s. Economic panic and political
corruption in the federal government distracted many Americans in
the North from the ongoing social and legal problems that African
Americans faced in the South. The disputed election of 1876 enabled
Democrats to make a compromise with Republicans that ended
Reconstruction in exchange for Republican Rutherford B. Hayes
gaining the presidency. The end of Reconstruction allowed Southern
states to restore unjust racial codes that openly discriminated
against African Americans.  

 Watching this presentation and reading the text should take
approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.  

 *Note*: *This topic is also covered by the video at the beginning
of Unit 11.*
  • Reading: Henry J. Sage’s Sage American History: “Politics in the Gilded Age” Link: Henry J. Sage’s Sage American History: “Politics in the Gilded Age” (HTML)

    Instructions: As you read, note that this article offers a comprehensive overview of the major political and economic issues that shaped the late 19th century during and immediately following the Reconstruction period in the South. How did the term Gilded Age originate? How does the moniker reflect this era in American history?

    Reading the article and answering the above questions should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

11.3.2 The End of Reconstruction   - Lecture: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Successes and Failures of Reconstruction” Link: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Successes and Failures of Reconstruction” (YouTube)

 Instructions: Watch this lecture, which assesses the extent to
which Congressional Reconstruction succeeded in achieving its goals
and examines the historic legacy of Reconstruction.  

 Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 30 minutes.

11.3.3 The “New South”: Southern Redemption and Racial Injustice   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 41: The New South – Race Relations in the New South” Link: University of California College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 41: The New South – Race Relations in the New South” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the third topic: “Race
Relations in the New South.” Click on the “Text” tab and read all of
the pages. Then, click on the links under “Explore”and read the
accompanying text.  
    
 This resource examines efforts by whites in many Southern states to
marginalize blacks politically and socially through legislation and
violence. It also addresses black reactions to white racism.  

 Watching this presentation and reading the text should take
approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center’s *Separate Is Not Equal, Brown v. Board of Education* Link: Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center’s Separate Is Not Equal, Brown v. Board of Education (HTML)

    Instructions: Read all of the pages under “Segregated America” and “The Battleground.”  These articles and images provide an overview of the emergence of the segregated South, the suppression of the black vote by the late 19th century, and the development of separate schools for African Americans in this same period.

    Reading these articles and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: These resources are posted with permission from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center and the original can be found here.

  • Reading: Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute: The United States Supreme Court, Justice Brown’s “Opinion of the Court: Plessy v. Ferguson” Link: Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute: The United States Supreme Court, Justice Brown’s “Opinion of the Court: Plessy v. Ferguson” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this 1896 ruling in which Justice Brown of the U.S. Supreme Court presents the majority opinion of the court, affirming a Louisiana state court’s ruling that racial segregation in railroad cars does not violate the 13th and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.  The Plessy v. Ferguson case provided the legal basis for segregation of all public facilities in most Southern states for the next 50 years.

    After reading this document, please consider the following questions:

    • How does this Supreme Court decision distinguish between political and social equality?
    • How did this distinction shape this Supreme Court decision?
    • In this decision, what is the relationship between state government and the federal government?

    Reading this text and answering the above questions should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    Note: This topic is also covered by the video at the beginning of Unit 11.