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Reconstruction DBQ

Directions: Read the historical context, and use your knowledge of the time period and the sources
provided to answer the following questions. This should give you the evidence you need to write an
essay on the Reconstruction time period.
Historical Context:
The Civil War may have settled some significant national problems, but it created many
more. Yes, slavery was abolished, secession had been refuted, and the supremacy of the national
government confirmed. But the cost of Union victory--in lost lives, destroyed property, and sectional
bitterness--was staggering, and created huge new problems and tasks.
Perhaps the most challenging task facing our exhausted nation was the future status of the
four million newly-freed slaves. After the death of President Lincoln and the failure of President
Johnson, Congress, in 1867, took charge of the effort to reconstruct our divided nation. A large part
of Congressional Reconstruction was an effort to establish and protect the citizenship rights of the
freedmen. The former Confederacy was divided into five military districts, each governed by a
Union general. The Southern states, in order to rid themselves of these military dictatorships, were
required to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal rights for all citizens--including the
former slaves. At the same time, large numbers of former Confederate states had ratified the
Fourteenth Amendment and were readmitted to the Union. In each state, the voting rights of
freedmen were protected while voting was denied to many white Southerners. And so, with many
whites not voting, and Union troops remaining in the South to protect them, freedmen seemed to be
enjoying some level of equal rights and full citizenship.
But this did not last long; by 1877 Reconstruction had ended. All Southern state governments
were restored, and the citizenship rights of the freedmen rapidly eroded. African-American voting
rates plummeted. Soon these former slaves fell into a Second class citizenship characterized by a
system of state-enforced segregation and discrimination.

Prompt: To what extent was Reconstruction a political, social, and economic success?

Amendment 13:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly
convicted, shall exist within the United States, or and place subject to their jurisdiction.....
Amendment 14:
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 to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws....
Amendment 15:
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 conditions of servitude.......
SOURCE: U. S. Constitution.

1. What was the purpose of the 13th amendment?

2. What was the purpose of the 14th amendment?

3. What was the purpose of the 15th amendment?

Document B
Source: First Black Legislature in South Carolina 1878

1. Who are the men that appear in this photograph?

2. What state are these men from?

3. How were they able to get elected to the state legislature?

4. Why is this picture significant?

Document C
These excerpts are from an editorial in the Atlanta News, dated September 10, 1874
Let there be White Leagues formed in every town, village, and hamlet of the South, and let us
organize for the great struggle which seems inevitable.
We have submitted long enough to indignities, and it is time to meet brute-force with brute-force.
If the white democrats of the North are men, they will not stand idly by and see us borne down by
northern radicals and half-barbarous negroes. But no matter what they may do, it is time for us to

1. What are White Leagues?

2. What is this editorial advocating?

Document D
During the 1930s, a major effort was made to interview elderly African Americans who could share
recollections of their youth in slavery. The following document is an excerpt from an interview with a
man named John McCoy. McCoy was born in 1838 and had lived 27 years as a slave in Texas.
(Benjamin Botkin, ed., Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery, University of Chicago Press,
1945, p. 238)
Freedom wasnt no different I knows of. I works for Marse John just the same for a long time. He
says one morning, John, you can go out in the field iffen you wants to or you can get out iffen you
wants to, cause the government says you is free. If you wants to work Ill feed you and give you
clothes but cant pay you no money. I aint got none. Humph, I didnt know nothing what money
was, nohow, I knows Ill git plenty victuals to eat, so I stays...

1. What does this recollection by John McCoy suggest as a reason for the failure of efforts to guarantee
freedmen full citizenship rights?

Document E
Source: Protest of the Freedmen of Edisto Island, South Carolina to General Howard, October
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
You will see this Is not the condition of really freemen.
In behalf of the people
Committee: Henry Bram, Ishmael Moultrie, Yates Sampson

1. What kind of people wrote this protest letter?

2. What do the authors of this passage believe they are entitled to? Why?

3. What do the authors fear will happen if their complaint is ignored?

Document F
W.E.B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America
"But the decisive influence was the systematic and overwhelming economic pressure. Negroes who
wanted work must not dabble in politics. Negroes who wanted to increase their income must not
agitate the Negro problem. . . in order to earn a living, the American Negro was compelled to give up
his political power.
1. According to DuBois, why did freedmen stop voting?

Document G

1. Where were most of the Black colleges established after the Civil War?

2. What made the establishment of Black colleges possible?

3. How did the establishment of Black colleges change the lives of African Americans?