Lesson Plan: Overview

What Price Freedom! Civil War & Reconstruction

Grade Level: 5th
Page 1

Academic Standards

Standard 5-1: The student will demonstrate an understanding of Reconstruction and its impact on racial relations.

5-1.2 Summarize the provisions of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution, including how the amendments protected the rights of African Americans and sought to enhance their political, social, and economic opportunities.

5-1.3 Explain the effects of Reconstruction on African Americans, including their new rights and restrictions, their motivations to relocate to the North and the West, and the actions of the Freedmen's Bureau.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

A. Distinguish between past, present, and future time.

K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships.

O. Consider multiple perspectives of documents and stories.

Essential Questions

1. How did life for African Americans in South Carolina change, yet stay the same, during Reconstruction?

2. How are primary and secondary sources different?

Historical Background Notes

The Civil War left devastation of plantations and homes in the South.  Confederate money was worthless.  Lives were in ruins.  Abraham Lincoln wanted to heal the wounds caused by the War and begin to rebuild the union.  He set down criteria for the Southern states to rejoin the Union.  They would have to free their slaves, disband their Confederate government and form a new state government.  No former leaders of the Confederacy would be allowed to hold an office in the new government.  Also, former leaders and officials of the Confederacy would have to seek presidential pardon before being allowed to vote.  This angered many Southerners.  (Hansen, 2000, 61)

On April 15, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. Andrew Johnson, then Vice President, became President.  His aim was to continue with Lincoln's plan for Reconstruction of the South.  Many Southerners felt that Lincoln's plan did not punish the South severely enough.  The Radical Republicans in Congress passed many laws to accomplish this goal.  As part of Johnson's plan, in 1865, Southern states were free to pass laws called Black Codes.  These laws were designed to prevent freed slaves and white refugees from voting, serving on juries, getting jobs, owning land, or going to school. (Hansen, 2000, 68) The Freedmen's Bureau was established by the Federal Government to counteract these Black Codes.  The Bureau's goal was to provide food, fuel, clothing, and medical care for 3.5 million freedmen and refugees throughout the South.  Early in 1865, several hundred thousand freedmen were in South Carolina alone. (Horne, 2006, 384)  It also helped provide schools for the freedmen.  Northern teachers were brought in to teach day and night schools.  However, the Freedmen's Bureau had great difficulty administering to the needs of the freedmen in South Carolina.  For example, at the end of 1865, there were only twenty-four assistants and twenty doctors to take care of the needs of four hundred thousand freedmen.  Also, there was much opposition towards the freedmen and white refugees by the military.  Supplies were denied for many except the severely destitute. (Abbott, 1967, 13)

The passing of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865 declared slavery illegal. Congress passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867. This required Southern states to write new constitutions giving African American men the right to vote.  As a part of this Act, Federal troops were sent to the South to prevent discrimination against African Americans and to make sure former slave holders honored work contracts and paid their freed laborers.  The 14th and 15th Amendments were passed, granting former slaves citizenship and the right to vote.

Freedom was still not guaranteed.  Jim Crow Laws limited the civil rights of African Americans.  Through excessive poll taxes, threats of violence and unfair literacy tests, the right to vote was literally taken away. Freedmen could be arrested if they refused to sign or honor a work contract.  Freedmen who left their plantations to look for relatives could be arrested as vagrants or killed.  Without slaves to work on the plantations, landowners had to sell some of their land.  The idea of sharecropping began in the South.  A tenant or sharecropper agreed to give the landowner, as rent, a portion of the crop raised from his labor.  This made the freedmen accountable to their former masters.

There was some relief at this time for the newly freed slaves and refugees. Some were returned to their homes and reunited with their families.  Educational programs enabled them to find work in the North and West.  Many were able to purchase land of their own for the first time.

The aim of the Freedmen's Bureau fell short of its goal. On June 30, 1872, the Freedmen's Bureau was dissolved.  In 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes, then President, withdrew troops from the South.  Reconstruction ended.  But, Reconstruction was the tool that gave the African Americans the courage and hope for a new beginning.  The fight for equality has never ended. It started during Reconstruction and continued until the 1950' and 1960's when the Civil Rights movement reached its climax. (Hansen, 2000, 137)


Primary Sources

"Reports of Conditions and Operations, July 1865-Dec. 1866." Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870. National Archives Microfilm Publication M869, roll 34. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Accessed online at The Freedman's Bureau Online, 11 March 2010.

D.T. Crosby, Freedmen's Contract, 14 April 1867. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Excerpt from Senate Report 693, 46th Congress, 2nd Session (1880). Reprinted in Dorothy Sterling Editor, The Trouble They Seen: The Story of Reconstruction In the Words of African Americans. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.

Freedman contract with H.A. Middleton from Georgetown District, 1868. Middleton Family papers. Call # 12/162/8. South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston, South Carolina.

Freedmen's Contract between C.K. Singleton and 32 Freedmen. 22 January 1867. Singleton Family Papers. Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Pardon of H.A. Middleton by Andrew Johnson. 15 August 1865. Middleton Family papers. Call# 12/162/2. South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston, South Carolina.

Special Field Orders, No. 15, Headquarters Military Division of the Mississippi. 16 January 1865. Orders & Circulars, ser. 44, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Accessed online at the Freedmen and Southern Society Project, 11 March 2010.

The Statute at Large of South Carolina Vol. XII containing the Acts from December 1861 to December 1866. An Act to Establish and Regulate the Domestic Relations of Persons of Color and to Amend the Law in Relation to Paupers and Vagrancy, Act No.  4733.  General Assembly, 19 December 1865. Constitutional Convention (1865).  Constitution of 1865.  S 131071.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

"Articles of Agreement" between B.R. Tillman and "persons of color." Tillman Papers. Box 1, folder 19, p. 2-8. 1867. Clemson Special Collections, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina.
Secondary Sources

Abbott, Martin. The Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina 1865-1872. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967.

Boyd, Candy Dawson, Rita Geiger, James B. Kracht, Valerie Ooka Pang.  Growth of a Nation. Glenview: Scott Foresman, 2006.

Boyd, Candy Dawson, Rita Geiger, James B. Kracht, Valerie Ooka Pang.  Growth of a Nation. I:To 1877. New York: McGraw Hill Companies, Inc., 2005.

Foner, Eric. Reconstruction, America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.

Hansen, Joyce. Bury Me Not in a Land of Slaves: African-Americans in the Time of Reconstruction. New York: Grolier Publishing, 2000.

Hansen, Joyce. I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly; The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl. New York: Scholastic, Inc., No copyright given.

"Helping the South." Available from the Internet, Discovery Channel School, Discovery Education.  Accessed 16 July 2008.

Megginson, W.J.  African-American Life in South Carolina's Upper Piedmont: 1780-1900. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2006.

Phillips, Michael.  Never Too Late. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2007.

Sterling, Dorothy. The Trouble They Seen: Black People Tell the Story of Reconstruction. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1976.

  • Overhead projector
  •  LCD projector
  • Laptop
  • Chart Paper
  • Crayons
  • Colored pencils
  • Pencils
  • Student scissors
  • Writing journal
  • 12" x 18" drawing paper
  • Pattern blocks
  • Fifth grade social studies textbook

Lesson Plans

Note:  The following procedures are geared toward my present 5th grade classroom which is comprised of students with learning disabilities and English As A Second Language.  Their reading abilities range from pre-primer to 4th grade.

Procedures - Day 1, approximately 90 minutes

1. Teacher has students take turns reading together Lesson 4, Chapter 2, Unit 1, pages 106-111 in their  social studies textbook, Growth of a Nation, Scott Foresman, 2006.  This will give the students the necessary background on Reconstruction, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, as well as "The Black Codes" and the Freedmen's Bureau.  The students will determine, from their reading of various sources, how life changed for African Americans during Reconstruction.

Note:  The teacher will use the book Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule, Harriet Gillem Robinet and Wendell Minor, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, NY, 1998, as a read aloud for the duration of this lesson or until completed.

2.  Students discover the meaning of Reconstruction through a hands-on activity:

a.  The students, in pairs, are given pattern blocks (could also use wooden geometry blocks) and instructed to create a design using the blocks.

b.  After this is complete, they are to draw a picture of the design.

c.  The pairs then take apart their design.

d. The teacher directs the students to exchange their drawing with another pair of students. They are told to "reconstruct" the design, using the drawing as a guide.

e. The teacher leads a discussion about the difficulties and successes in reconstructing the design. The students are led into a discussion of how they felt when their designs were destroyed.  This should lead into more discussion of the destruction and reconstruction of the South after the Civil War.

Procedures - Day 2, approximately 90 minutes

1. Show the video, " Helping the South, " Discovery Education, to show the plight of the African Americans after the war and how Congress proposed to help them by creating the Freedman's Bureau.

2. Display a copy of a Freedman's contract with H.A. Middleton from Georgetown District, South Carolina (with accompanying summary) as an example of a primary source.  The teacher will point out important information.  Stress should be placed on the fact that it is an actual document, making it a primary source.  This is an opportune time to display other primary and secondary sources and point out the difference between primary and secondary sources.  How are they different from one another?  What do they tell us about the people in them?  Use PAST and RAD handout.       

3.  What do these pictures and documents tell us about the lives of the newly freed slaves?  How did life for African Americans in South Carolina change, yet stay the same, during Reconstruction? Students work in groups to record information from the sources.  The teacher, under the students' direction, will record their findings on chart paper.

Teacher Reflections

Reflective Essay

Student Assessment

Day 3, approximately 60 minutes

1. On a large table, the teacher will display, in random order, five primary and five secondary sources.  Each of these sources will be numbered.

2.  Students will number a sheet of paper 1-10, placing a P (primary) or S (secondary) next to the corresponding source, adding how they know it is primary or secondary.

3.  In order to assess the students' knowledge of the vocabulary from the lesson, the students will create a flip-flap booklet.  Following is a list of the vocabulary words to be placed in the flip-flap booklet:  reconstruction, Freedman's Bureau, 13th Amendment, 14th Amendment, 15th Amendment, and plantation.  Students will be assessed according to a rubric.

Examples of Students Work

Student Reconstruction Activity

Student Reconstruction Activity 2

Student Reconstruction Activity 3

Student Q and A Activity

Student Q and A Activity 2

Student Primary and Secondary Source Activity

Student Primary and Secondary Source Activity 2

Student Flip Flap Booklet

Student Flip Flap Booklet 2


Barbara Weiner
James M. Brown Elementary
Walhalla, South Carolina