Reconstruction Era Timeline
- The first African slaves are brought to the British colonies in North America, which will eventually become the United States of America.
- The Louisiana Purchase adds about 800,000 square miles of new territory to the United States.
- The Missouri Compromise allows Missouri to be admitted to the Union as a slave state, while Maine is admitted as a free state, thus maintaining the balance between states where slavery is allowed and where it is illegal. Slavery is prohibited in any of the lands of the Louisiana Purchase that are north of the Missouri border.
- The U.S. victory in the Mexican-American War brings a large area of new territory into the United States, including what will become the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
- February 28, 1854
- The Republican Party is formed by politicians—most of them from the Northern states—who favor protections for business interests, public support for internal improvements (like roads and services), and social reforms, especially an end to slavery.
- May 30, 1854
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Words to Know
- The movement to end slavery, which gained followers as the United States grew and more people began to protest the enslavement of blacks in the South. By the time of the Civil War, its followers exerted considerable influence on public opinion in the North.
- An official pardon for those convicted of political offenses.
- Black Codes:
- Laws put in place by the Southern governments formed under the Reconstruction plan of President Andrew Johnson, which returned power to the former leaders of the Confederacy. They limited the economic options and civil rights of the former slaves through strict regulations on both their working conditions and their behavior.
- Black suffrage:
- The right of African Americans to cast votes in elections. The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1870, guaranteed that voting rights could not be denied on the basis of race or "previous condition of servitude."
- Border states:
- States located on the border between the North and the South (Delaware, Maryland,...
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Research and Activity Ideas
The following research and activity ideas are intended to offer suggestions for complementing social studies and history curricula, to trigger additional ideas for enhancing learning, and to provide cross-disciplinary projects for library and classroom use.
- Change history: Imagine if President Abraham Lincoln had not been assassinated, or the Redeemers had not succeeded in overthrowing the Reconstruction governments. Think about how Southern society—and U.S. history—might have turned out differently if key events had never happened. Write a series of journal entries, an exchange of letters, or a standard essay describing what life is like in this alternative world.
- Three women from different worlds: Imagine the voices and outlooks of three women of the Reconstruction era: the wife of a plantation owner who has lost a son in the Civil War, a former slave who is the mother of three children (one of whom was sold away to another plantation), and a northern teacher who has come South to help the freed people. What would these women have had in common, and how would their perspectives have differed? Write a play in which these three characters encounter and interact with each other, or speak through their voices in written form.
- The land and labor problem: Read a variety of sources to learn how and why...
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Where to Learn More
Anthony, Susan B., Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds. History of Woman Suffrage. New York: Fowler & Wells, 1881–1922. Reprint, Salem, NH: Ayer Co., 1985.
Appiah, Kwame Anthony, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., eds. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 1999.
Archer, Jules. A House Divided: The Lives of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. New York: Scholastic, 1995.
Ayers, Edward L. The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Barney, William L. The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Student Companion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Benedict, Michael Les. A Compromise of Principle: Congressional Republicans and Reconstruction, 1863–1869. New York: Norton, 1974.
Berlin, Ira A., et al., eds. Freedmen: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861–1867. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
Blassingame, John W., ed. Slave Testimony. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977.
Cox, LaWanda C., and John H. Cox, eds....
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